Happy Friday, everyone. We have officially reached the start of fall camp, and only 29 days stand between you and Alabama football, though a couple of slapfights like Florida vs. Miami will happen a week sooner. There are a few storylines to watch as practice gets rolling.
The run game, which has been a primary feature of Alabama’s offense, was not in the limelight last season with Tagovailoa’s skills taking center stage. Alabama failed to have a running back rush for 1,000 yards for just the fourth time in the Saban era.
Another big concern entering fall camp is the offensive line. The Crimson Tide lost three starters and there could be some shuffling around for the first week or so of August to figure out where all the pieces fit.
I will actually be surprised if there is much shuffling in the line. Alex Leatherwood and Jedrick Wills have the tackle jobs on lockdown, and Chris Owens looks to be the center. There will be some fierce competition at both guard spots, with newcomer Landon Dickerson hoping to push frontrunners Emil Ekiyor and Matt Womack, and Evan Neal made an immediate impact in the spring as well.
The team is generally healthy going into camp, which is always good.
Defensive end LaBryan Ray (ankle) and tight end Miller Forristall (foot) sustained injuries earlier this summer, had to get surgery and are expected to be limited through at least the first couple weeks of fall camp, sources told AL.com.
Both players are expected to be fine in time for Alabama’s season-opening game against Duke Aug. 31.
There is no mention of Terrell Lewis, Christopher Allen or Ben Davis, which is a great thing since all missed the spring game. With the departure of Eyabi Anoma, those three will get the first crack at the OLB rotation along with Anfernee Jennings. Jarez Parks and freshman Kevin Harris will be in the mix as well.
We obviously need to get Forristall healthy since Kedrick James transferred. Cecil has the tight end breakdown for you.
This group includes one player who was on the squad last season, Michael Parker, and another who played a bit on the other side of the football, Cameron Latu.
The switch of Latu from inside linebacker, not the deepest position on the team, to tight end before spring practice was a bit of a surprise but the move seems to have worked well. He is a redshirt freshman although he did see two games of action at linebacker (and on special teams) in 2018. At 6-5 and 247 pounds, he has tight end-level size and athleticism and Saban said at A-Day he was “encouraged” by Latu’s spring progress.
The other newcomer is signee Jahleel Billingsley. The Chicago-area standout needs to add weight but has been impressive in summer workouts, according to observers.
Major Tennison is also in the mix but Cecil, my man. You forgot to mention the massive freshman with the spectacular ‘fro.
Hunt’s development is going to be among my favorite stories to watch.
Alabama is not ranked number one according to the coaches.
As for Alabama, this is the first time since 2015 the Crimson Tide will not be ranked first heading into the season. But that could prove to be good news for Nick Saban’s squad. Of Alabama’s five national championship campaigns with Saban at the helm, the Tide were picked first in the preseason in just one of them (2017).
The rest of the teams in the top five are also the same as those who started last season there, though the order is slightly different. Georgia will open at No. 3, followed by No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 5 Ohio State. It is the first time since 1992 that the preseason top five has been made up by the same teams in consecutive seasons.
This is just fine.
Athlon has its potential ups and downs for the Tide.
You guys all heard it during SEC Media Days last week. Saban said one of the main reasons Bama tanked it so bad vs. Clemson was due to a handful of assistant coaches being “distracted” by their hopes to land other gigs. In all, five assistant coaches left through what has become Saban’s annual revolving staff door. Sometimes, as witnessed in the title game back in January, it can have an ill effect on a team. We’ll see if new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Pete Golding can keep the sailing smooth on this staff.
Saban didn’t take a lot of chances with this staff. The guys he brought in have been around the block and know him well. Hopefully it pays dividends.
Phil Steele likes Alabama to go unbeaten.
Phil Steele: “They narrowly got past Georgia in the SEC title game and they shockingly lost 44-16 to Clemson. That loss should have them playing with a chip on their shoulder and they actually look stronger on both offense and defense.”
247Sports take: It’s hard to imagine Alabama not winning the West for a second straight year unless the Crimson Tide lose head-to-head at Auburn in the regular-season finale and the Tigers finish with one loss or fewer elsewhere. Nick Saban has the SEC’s most talented team and they’re double-digit favorites in every contest this fall, per early odds.
Last, one of the greatest defensive minds in college football history is set to hang them up after the season.
Big news out of #VaTech: DC Bud Foster and head coach Justin Fuente announce that Foster plans to retire from coaching following the 2019 season.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) August 1, 2019
Foster has been rumored to be on Alabama’s radar more than once, but he made a fine career out of it in Blacksburg. Best of luck to him in his final season.
That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.