-- Hentges said the playbook hasn’t changed a ton under new offensive coordinator Mike Locksley but he “brought in some really good wrinkles” from previous jobs. He was the offensive coordinator at Illinois and Maryland before coming to Tuscaloosa.
-- Linebacker Christian Miller has been impressed with true freshmen Eyabi Anoma. “I’ve seen a lot of improvement from them,” he said. I said the last time I was down here that they always want to learn, they’re always asking to learn so that they can get better. So, I’ve seen a lot of improvement from them. They come to work every day, and they’re doing a good job of getting the plays down. So, I think now they just need to get some experience to kind of understand how it works in college football. It’s a lot different than high school. I think the more experience they get the even better they’ll be. So, I’m excited for those guys.”
-- With depth a concern at linebacker, Miller said it’s on him to get some of the young guys ready to play.
-- On the young outside linebackers, Miller said “those guys can rush the passer. They are naturally good at it.”
-- Fellow outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings said Latu is a “young, humble guy” who came to Alabama to prove something.
The players seem to be quite high on the two freshman outside linebackers, Eyabi Anoma and Cameron Latu. Which is a good thing, considering Coach Saban likes them enough to have them as the key back-ups when it comes to rushing the passer. With injuries sidelining Terrell Lewis and Chris Allen, plus Ben Davis still being Ben Davis, they’ll be pressed to learn as quickly as they possibly can to fill out the team depth.
There are quite a few other quotes from different players on the team in this article, if you’re interested.
Not only is Fitzgerald entitled to his opinion, on paper he is correct. The Cardinals top three receivers caught 147 passes last season for 20 touchdowns. On paper, the Tide’s counter of defensive statistics can only include Shyheim Carter and Deionte Thompson, neither of whom were regulars last season.
The Louisville receivers are also big. Jaylen Smith, Seth Dawkins and Dez Fitzpatrick are 6-foot-4, 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-2, respectively. Additionally, Louisville has three tight ends, two of whom are 6-foot-4 and another at 6-foot-6. The Cardinals will have size advantages.
Still, Fitzgerald giving Alabama football bulletin board material was unwise. The inexperienced Crimson Tide secondary will look to let play on the field make a counter statement.
I know today is Gump Day and all, but I’ll be honest that this matchup has me a little worried. While I’m quite bullish on the talent in our secondary this year (I think McKinney, Thompson, and Carter will be absolute studs), they will all be in their first game together. Throw in the fact that the Louisville wideouts have a good bit of size on all of our DBs, and it gives me flashbacks to Kevin White vs. Brad Sylve in the 2014 season opener.
That said, Diggs is 6’2”, as are Saivion Smith and Pat Surtain. McKinney and Thompson are both 6’1”, and McKinney in particular has disproportionately long arms for his height.
Then there’s the pass rush. Raekwon Davis, Isaiah Buggs, Quinnen Williams, Christian Miller, Anfernee Jennings (plus the freshmen) will be looking to have an absolute feast on an inexperienced QB. If Jawon is on his back, he can’t Pass it to anybody, even if there’s a height mismatch.
Coach Bobby Petrino and Louisville focus game preparation on their first offensive series. They script the plays for the entire drive and practice them leading up to game day. They choose plays designed to set up for success later on in the game.
Two years ago Wednesday, Petrino explained a conversation he often has before each game regarding the pregame coin flip.
“If we win the toss, we take the ball,” he’d tell a captain in the locker room. “If they defer, we take the ball.”
“If we have to kick,” he said, as if the ball would have to pried from his grasp, “we’ll defend this goal.”
The decision after winning the coin flip at the beginning of the game is really one of preference of the individual coaches. Many people I talk to prefer to defer until the second half, because of the chance to be able to score twice in a row at the end of the first/start of the second half.
I personally am generally in the same camp as Petrino here though. I want to have the opportunity to come out and strike immediately to start a game. Leading off with a deep shot down the field (even as early as the first play) can often catch a defense that still isn’t quite in the zone of the game yet— or burn a cornerback who didn’t stretch enough pre-game— is the way I’d like to go.
But, in 2016 when the Alabama defense was scoring nearly as many points as the offense, I actually wanted the defense on the field first, as I felt they could set the tone of domination better than an opening score ever could. So I guess it all really just depends on the attitude of the team.
“I think just young guys, both very talented, just trying to get them in the right spots so they can play fast,” Pierschbacher said. “I think Jed’s more of a rangy guy, so I think that’s why tackle suits him better. Leatherwood’s really good in short spaces, so I think that was a good move for them. Just getting their confidence up, knowing the game plan, getting as many reps with those two.”
Pierschbacher later added: “I think we’ve got the experience and the talent both coming back. Talent-wise, I think the guys on the right side are extremely talented, and their potential is huge. So, I think just getting those guys as many reps as possible and have the guys who’ve played in a lot of games and just have those guys settle in and not be too anxious come Saturday.”
I’m more excited about this year’s offensive line than probably any in the past. The right side has perpetually been a rotating door of inconsistent performance for probably the last 5 years, and getting both Wills and Leatherwood over there may well wind up being one of the most underrated and brilliant decisions from Saban. I think flipping Wills to the outside and Leatherwood inside was the perfect move as well.
In particular, Wills is probably my favorite offensive lineman we’ve ever recruited in high school. Not only was he absolutely elite in SPARQ scores, but he’s an absolute terror when blocking in space. To quote myself from last year, “Wherever Wills goes, carnage follows”.
Nearly 50 former Alabama players appeared in the 16 games across Week 3 of the NFL’s preseason.
Of the 49 players that saw at least one snap, Dolphins tailback Kenyan Drake had the most productive outing with 68 yards from scrimmage. No players found the end zone. Defensively, Reggie Ragland and Shaun Dion Hamilton recorded six tackles for the Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins, respectively. Texans safety Kareem Jackson intercepted a pass.
Patriots cornerback Cyrus Jones also saw his first game action since suffering a knee injury in New England’s preseason finale of last year.
Here’s a quick update on how many former Alabama players are faring in the third week of the NFL preseason. Kenyan Drake continues to impress after being one of the best running backs in the league over the last 4 games of the 2017 season. He’s gaining more and more attention, and many are starting to peg him as a real breakout candidate to have a monster season with a full year of starting.