Happy Monday, everyone. The Tide rolled to a 24-point road win in its SEC opener to much consternation from the fanbase, again highlighting just how much Saban has raised the bar in Tuscaloosa. There was only one injury this week and it is one that has apparently been lingering. In a related matter, I am dangerously low on Hoo Doo content, so if y’all want to keep it as a feature I need some submissions to RBRhoodoo@gmail.com.
Now, about that injury:
Preseason All-SEC defensive end LaBryan Ray, who left Saturday’s game against South Carolina with a foot/ankle injury, has what’s feared to be a long-term and possibly season-ending injury, according to sources.
It’s the latest significant injury situation for the Crimson Tide, which lost freshman running back Trey Sanders and inside linebackers Dylan Moses and Josh McMillon to season-ending injuries during fall camp.
For those keeping score at home, there is a decent chance that we will now be starting four true freshman in the front seven as Justin Eboigbe seems to be the most likely candidate to start for Ray. Several of the Tide’s youngsters will have a chance at this point. Christian Barmore looked pretty explosive when he got into the game, but he will have to watch the first half of the Southern Miss game thanks to a targeting foul.
Next, let’s consult gramps about the Tide’s offense.
This conversation has already been going on for a while, but let’s talk about #RTDB.
You might have heard of Tagovailoa already. His five touchdown passes tied a career-high. His 444 yards were a career-high. In doing so, he became the first Tide quarterback to throw for 400+ yards and five touchdowns in the same game.
”If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” Saban said. “If we’re making it work and we’re moving the ball and we’re making plays, why change?”
That statement alone should be worth a month’s worth of calls on Birmingham sports talk radio where the daily refrain is summed up by, “Run the damn ball.”
Call it part of Southern culture. Call it part of Alabama culture. Physicality means something in this part of the country.
When Alabama’s decision to run or pass is not influenced by the defense at the snap through an RPO, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian faces a dilemma in his play calling.
Sarkisian’s best talent is at quarterback and wide receiver, and Saban was pleased after Saturday’s game that the offense has featured its best players -- often through the passing game.
“But I also think from a team standpoint, we need to be able to run the ball effectively as well,” he added.
Alabama tried establishing its traditional ground game in its first two games, against Duke and New Mexico State, but was off to its slowest start in that phase in Saban’s 13 years as coach.
As I mentioned in the Initial Impressions post, there is little distinguishable difference in handing the ball off to a back or tossing it to him a couple of yards away. Najee Harris has been rather pedestrian when trying to find holes from the backfield, but he is utterly terrifying in the open field. Let’s just watch that one play again, shall we?
NAJEE HARRIS, YOU CAN'T BE SERIOUS!— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 14, 2019
• Run someone over
• Hurdle someone
• Drag someone into the end zone pic.twitter.com/pFnPok0HU3
Call me silly, but I’d rather get that man the ball out in space where he can work his magic. With the receivers Alabama is running out there, he is rarely if ever going to have tight coverage, and knowing that Tua is willing and able to find him with the ball puts a damper on the blitz.
It hasn’t been mentioned much, but I would also like to congratulate Saban for going on that 4th-and-3. The book has said for years that you should go for 4th down the vast majority of the time when the ball is across midfield, and since we are winning games with offense now I hope to see him on the cutting edge of that this year. The folks who created this game we love gave the offense four downs to get ten yards, and it’s baffling how coaches have over the years decided to voluntarily limit their chances by a full 25%.
The linebackers are a work in progress, and they affect more than just their own jobs.
“There was a lot of adjusting to do,” Saban said. “The young players had a lot of problems adjusting to the quads (with four players split out as receivers) and to the empty formation (with the QB as the only player in the backfield) into the boundary, which we had worked on. But it was a lot for the linebackers. So we had to stay pretty simple in terms of what we were doing, afraid that we would not do things correctly.”
RPOs are hard enough to defend with veteran LBs, let alone true freshmen. As Coach says, you really an’t run a lot of games up front when you have guys who are that green at that position, and pressure is the easiest way to slow down any passing game.
Alabama is heavily favored again, of course.
That gets covered easily unless the backups give up points again, which is possible.
Last, people are seeing cracks in the Bama-Clemson matchup armor.
Alabama worries: The dirty little secret for Alabama last season was that Tua Tagovailoa’s crazy offensive production was partly out of necessity. As we found out against Clemson, Nick Saban loosened the reins of the offense because he knew his defense wasn’t great and that Alabama needed to get more possessions and score a bunch of points to win.
Alabama gave off that same kind of vibe Saturday in a 47-23 win over South Carolina, which had 459 yards of offense but failed to convert in some key situations and eventually got buried by Tagovailoa’s ability to open things up.
I guess we shall see.
That’s about it for today. Have a great week.