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Jumbo Package: Beating the Big Play Bugaboo

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Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, everyone. Michael Casagrande opens today with a look at the things Alabama football needs to correct for this season, and the first one is the most critical.

Clemson gained 65 percent of its passing yardage on the five big plays that included throws of 62 and 74 yards. They came at the worst possible moments since four of those five chunk plays came on third-and-long.

Alabama’s big-play allowance broke a recent trend of success there for Alabama defenses. The Tide allowed 26 plays of 30-plus yards in 2018 -- exactly double the total from the previous season.

There is a pretty distinct correlation between Alabama national titles and success limiting big plays. This secondary looks to have the combination of talent and experience that Saban covets. Of course, limiting the effects of rat poison ranks on the list as well.

Najee Harris seems to be something of a lightning rod this offseason. We’ve seen debate about whether he can win the starting job, and then there’s this.

In the 2019 NFL Draft, three Crimson Tide players heard their names called in picks 1-32.

Should Harris opt to forgo his final season of collegiate eligibility, he likely won’t have to wait long until his name is called by the commissioner.

Sports Illustrated projects Harris as the 30th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Big Leadhas Harris going at 12th, and Walter Football has the running back drafted at No. 16 in the upcoming draft.

If Najee shows the big play ability seen in the national title game against Georgia two seasons ago, he will likely be the next first round RB from Alabama.

BamaOnline continues its most important players series, and Jerry Jeudy cracks the top 5.

Jeudy stepped into a starting role last year after seeing plenty of the field as a freshman in 2017. The winner of the Biletnikoff Award, which is annually given to the top receiver in the nation, Jeudy paced Alabama in receptions (68), receiving yards (1,315), receiving touchdowns (14), yards per catch (19.3) and yards per game (87.7). His 19.3 yards per catch is a school single-season record (minimum 50 catches), surpassing the previous total of 17.0 by DJ Hall in 2006.

This is a deep and talented receiving corps, but Jeudy is clearly the lead dog. Hopefully he blows up this season.

Creg Stephenson wonders who is in the second tier of SEC QBs.

Here are a few candidates (in alphabetical order):

Jake Bentley, South Carolina: Bentley has a legitimate shot to be the Gamecocks’ all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns by the end of the season, but he’s also been inconsistent accuracy-wise (14 interceptions last year).

Kelly Bryant, Missouri: Bryant has never taken a snap in the SEC, but he did lead Clemson to a berth in the College Football Playoff in 2017. Despite losing his job to Trevor Lawrence, he’s 16-2 as a college starter.

Joe Burrow, LSU: Burrow is considered largely a game-manager, but that was a vast improvement over what the Tigers had had in the previous decade or so before him. He threw just five interceptions in 379 attempts last season, but was sacked 35 times.

Folks in Baton Rouge seem to have convinced themselves that Joe Burrow is something more than Danny Etling with slightly better wheels, but that’s how I see him, and the supporting cast doesn’t look appreciably different from those that averaged 3.3 points per game vs. Alabama over the last three seasons.

Last and speaking of LSU, noted Bayou Bengals apologist Tim Brando seems pretty happy that Clemson gave mean old Nick a January loss.

Maybe you’re right, Timmy boy. Let’s hope Clemson thinks so.

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.

Roll Tide.