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Jumbo Package: A focused Nick Saban speaks as Alabama begins preparation for season-opener

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It’s game week and there are still many questions to be answered along the depth chart.

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&amp;T - Alabama v Clemson

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Yesterday to open the Fall 2019 season, Saban had his first Monday press conference of the year. He was dialed-in, particularly noting that so many starting jobs are up in the air and that playing time is available for guys on the lines, at linebacker, in the defensive backfield. He seems really high on the freshman DBs in particular:

On offensive line competition

”Well, if we have a slash there, that means that we feel both guys are very much in competition for the position and both guys have an opportunity to play at that position. And we’ll make a determination at some point in time as to who actually starts the game. But that’s not something that we’re uncomfortable saying right now.”

Here’s the complete presser, with link to the video embed.

This kid has been a revelation:

There was no slash next to his name. No “or” either. On the first edition of Alabama’s 2019 depth chart, Christian Harris was alone atop his position, a stunning development that was even more jaw-dropping given that 2018 Biletnikoff winner Jerry Jeudy couldn’t even make that claim and had to share space with fellow receiver Jaylen Waddle on the same white sheet of paper.

Exactly 90 days after he enrolled in late May, Harris is now slated to start at Will — or weakside — linebacker in the Crimson Tide’s season opener against Duke on Saturday.

I’m trying to recall the last day-one, true freshman WILB Alabama had starting at the position. I know that freshman have played critical roles inside, and that many started as the season dragged on. But I’m drawing a blank as to whether there was a day-one true freshman. Maybe Prince Hall? Impressively, Harris was not even an early enrollee for the Crimson Tide — ninety days ago, Christian Harris was grubbing around in the backseat with his prom date.

I’d say Alabama got fairly lucky that Dan Enos slunk off to Miami after getting yelled at. What he said about RS Fr. QB Jarren Williams yesterday was absolutely shameful, publicly throwing him under the bus.

I grade the guys on either you played well enough for us to win or you didn’t. And he did not. He did not play well enough for us to win the football game. That’s first and foremost.We left a lot of plays on the field. Jarren left a lot of plays on the field. I was very, very disappointed from that standpoint.

Jarren Williams had played in exactly one college game. He had a new coach, a new OC, and a new offense to work with. He was playing a neutral site game against the No. 8 team in the country. Miami’s already-bad offensive line was simply overwhelmed against a superior Gators defensive front. He did not have time to make plays, but nor did he make the crippling bad reads and throws that UF upperclassman Feleipe Franks did. And, for all that, Miami still had a chance to win down just 24-20. For a conservative game plan designed to protect him from Florida’s DBs, Williams went 19-30 (63%) for 214 with a touchdown and no turnovers, by the way.

Yup. I’d say Alabama got really lucky. Or, as someone replied to me on Twitter last night, “This is why Nick Saban doesn’t let assistants speak to the media.”

Per usual, we’ll have our Opponent Previews up later in the week. For now, take a look at 247’s Duke Football landing page, where their own 5 Questions series gives you a sneak peek behind enemy lines:

3. Can Duke’s offense score enough points to have a chance?

Look for this Blue Devil offense to being with the ground attack mores than a season ago. For starters, the team has a legitimate 1-2 rushing attack with Deon Jackson and Brittain Brown. Next, new quarterback Quentin Harris is a bit faster and more elusive than was Daniel Jones.

However, Harris isn’t quite the passer Jones was and he’ll be throwing to a completely unproven group of wide receivers. In fact Duke will start an entirely new set of receivers from a season ago on Saturday. The inexperienced of that position group could be an issue, but there’s also the general feeling that the group which will feature some combination of Aaron Young, Scott Bracey, Damon Philyaw-Johnson, Jalen Calhoun, Darrell Harding, Jr, and Eli Pancol could feature more big play ability than last year’s more seasoned group.

With Alabama already down one running back, Jerome Ford will need to stay healthy for an offense that heavily platoons them. Fortunately, he seems to be nearly fully-mended.

Third-string running back Jerome Ford was looking fresh and moving well after spraining his ankle at the scrimmage a week and a half ago.

More observations here from Casagrande.

The same cannot be said for Justin Eboigbe, who has missed the last two days of practice.

“Justin (Eboigbe) has a foot injury that is not a long-term injury,” Saban said in a press conference on Monday. “He’s kind of day-to-day. I would say he’s questionable for this particular game, so we just have to wait and see how he responds and how he goes from there.”

If you want to be on the lookout for something that could affect future transfers, Transfer Guru Tommy Mars thinks the NCAA’s solution to the inconsistent mess it has created is to establish an amnesty program of sorts — a one-time, no-questions-asked, non-penalized transfer for players.

Needless to say, such a system would absolutely throw the doors wide open for free agency. I can’t believe that any coaches would be happy about it, or that such a regime would be good for the sport, for programs, or indeed most players.

This idea is so terrible that it just might happen.

This was incredibly sweet:

In our Giving Away Money piece later today, I note how much respect Nick Saban — indeed, the entire coaching fraternity — has for David Cutcliffe. He’s not only truly one of the nicest guys in the game, he’s a fundamentally sound coach and one of the deans of the old school. Yesterday, Nick Saban had nothing but regard for him too:

“I’ve always thought that he’s one of the best quarterback coaches in the country and obviously his track record has proven that,” Saban said. “But I also think that their system on offense is well conceived. It also gives the players at all positions on offense to have a chance to be successful. But it makes the quarterback’s efficiency -- always have the consistency that everyone always looks for in a quarterback -- because the system allows them to make quick decisions and get the ball out of their hands, and it’s very sound and they’re very well coached in being able to do that. I think all those things contribute to the success of the quarterback as well as their offense.

“There’re lots of challenges that they present as a team,” Saban said.

If you haven’t shared your Alabama fandom story (or you just want to creep the contributions of others), you can do so here. We’ll leave this up all week. New faces, introduce yourself. Old ones, come say hi again.

And, finally, it does appear that there are still a few single-game tickets and mini-plans left available for Bryant Denny home games. You can buy them online at that link. Or you can talk to a real live human at 205-348-3592 if you want to know what’s available and where and for how much.

We’ll be back later today.

Roll Tide

Programming note: there won’t be a Meltdown for Week Zero — there were just two games on the schedule. And most Arizona fans are honestly more concerned about whether or not Sean Miller and the Wildcats hoops program are about to get hammered. Meanwhile, Miami is firmly in moral victory mode. #NoRefunds