Happy Monday, everyone. We have the shenanigans on the diamond covered in other areas, so we won’t ruin your morning by discussing it here. As you might expect, everyone is talking about A-Day.
It was one of the more exciting spring games during Nick Saban’s tenure in Tuscaloosa, so it gets an ‘A’ for that alone. In the past, we’ve seen a lot of ugly defensive battles. The A-Day game last year ended up 7-3.
It helped that Alabama wasn’t trying to rotate a ton of quarterbacks this year.
The fans who attended Saturday or watched on television were awarded with a nice show from the Crimson Tide’s skill players.
Jeudy accounted for the White team's first two touchdowns. The early enrollee won a jump ball over Crimson team defensive back Aaron Robinson for a 25-yard touchdown in the first quarter before taking advantage of a fortunate bounce on a deflection for a 29-yard score in the second quarter.
New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll isn't trying to turn Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa into Tom Brady Jr. Circumstances dictated pigs would fly Saturday, and fly they did.
Think about it. Alabama's most proven running backs spent the day watching from the sidelines or, in the case of Hurts, wearing a black jersey and playing two-hand touch when he tried to duck and dash. The passing game needed the most work, and the defense was limited in its blitz packages and coverages.
Big plays in the passing game
The production didn’t come from quick screen passes or jet sweeps either. Hurts completed six passes of more than 15 yards, including connections of 60, 65, 50, 21, 37 and 22. Tagovailoa completed nine of more than 15 yards, including completions of 23, 15, 47, 25, 38, 29, 34, 20 and 19.
The young quarterback’s accountability was put on display later in the game as well. With the White team struggling to move the ball late in the second half, offensive line coach Brent Key tore into his lineman for not providing enough push and protection. Following the assistant’s tirade, Tagovailoa walked over and shook each one of the lineman’s hands, telling them “good job” and “this is on me.”
That kind of leadership has not been lost on his teammates.
“We’re going to have competition,” he said. “Competition is healthy. It’s not significant to me if we have five starters right now. What’s significant to me is that we have guys competing. I know (the media) wants to know right now. You’re only interested in results. There’s no process. There’s no development, even though football is a developmental sport. You just want results, so you can set a guy up and then tear him down.
“But we’re going to have competition here, because we’ve always done that.”
That’s a lot to unpack, but the immediate takeaway is this. The only real answer that comes from A-Day, despite statistics – Saban dismissed those as “misleading” anyway – is whether there is enough talent to get from “adequate” to “elite.”
That seemed to be the case. There will be competition – and lots of it.
Nothing terribly new here, but good reading nonetheless. One notable absence that no one seems to be talking about is Da’shawn Hand. We have to assume that he had some sort of illness or tweak on Saturday, as he saw no action in the scrimmage after participating in spring camp with no limitations.
Marq makes a good point in that first excerpt about thinning the herd a bit at the QB position. That, as much as anything, will contribute to the development of the three guys. Logic would dictate that Hurts is going to get the lion’s share of first team reps in fall camp, Tagovailoa will get a few, and Jones will play on the scout team while he redshirts. All three men should benefit from not having to compete in an awkward four-way competition.
Scrimmage stats are virtually meaningless to begin with, but Jalen’s line is interesting. On the one hand, Tide fans should be ecstatic to see him throw the ball down the field confidently and accurately. On the other, those three plays accounted for 185 of his 301 yards, leaving only 116 yards on his other 22 attempts. The concern is what happens when there isn’t an overmatched defender to pick on, as we saw late in the season.
As Cecil notes, Saban is correct that the team is not yet elite and also that the talent is on hand to get there. As always, the attitude of the players through camp will write the story.
"I'll never get over it because you never do with those kind of losses," Saban told ESPN this week. "I never got over the returned field goal at Auburn. I never got over playing poorly against Ohio State and losing that game late. And then in this game, we didn't play very well, and Clemson did when they had to. That's what eats at you. We didn't play that great against Washington, either (in a 24-7 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl win) in the semifinal.
"Something happened to our team from the SEC championship game to the playoff. You look at the Clemson game, and our really good players didn't play very well. But Clemson was a damn good team. They were the best team we played against with the best quarterback, and where we needed to play well, we didn't."
Saban has said before that he hates losing more than he loves winning. That is a common trait among the hyper-successful.
Anderson made two personal visits during draft evaluations, traveling to the Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles. Those teams illustrate the debate on what position Anderson is best suited for in the NFL. Arizona's basic defense is a 3-4; the Eagles run a 4-3.
"People are making a big fuss about a 3-4 and a 4-3," Anderson said. "At the end of the day, football is football. See ball, get ball. That's it. That's all football is. No matter if I'm shedding an offensive tackle, shedding a guard or I'm playing a flat, football is football."
As stated here previously, some team is going to get a really good linebacker in the second or third round, a guy who will be a starter in the league for a long time and make a few Pro Bowls.
8 Consecutive first rounds have included at least one Alabama player, the longest active streak. The record for the most consecutive drafts providing a first-round selection is 14 by Miami (Fla.) from 1995 through 2008. Florida owns the second-longest streak at nine with first-round selections from 1983 through 1991. Alabama is expected to tie the Gators' SEC record on Thursday night.
You have to figure that the top-ranked classes of 2016 and 2017 will keep this streak going through at least the 2021 draft, which would get the Tide to 13 consecutive. Great chance that Saban breaks yet another record here.
That’s about it for today. Have a great week.