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How has Steve Sarkisian changed the Alabama running game?

Alabama vs Ole Miss Photo by Kent Gidley/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

Halfway through the week, everyone! Keep up the good work wherever you are.

“So you mentioned two players that have experience but we have 11 guys out there at once so it only takes one guy to make a mistake. And when everybody gives ‘my bad’ one time, that’s 11 mistakes. Well, that can be a lot of yards. And we’ve had some guys that have made multiple mistakes, either have to get fixed or replace them. And we’re going to work in every endeavor and try to get better. Believe me, this is no one satisfied with the way we played. I think it was very challenging, pace of play, all that type of thing with some of the players that we have, you know, a couple guys really contributed to a lot of those mental errors but we just got to get them all fixed.”

This is about as scathing of a media quote as you’ll ever hear from Saban when he’s talking about his players. I think we all know which players he’s talking about, and the “fix it or get replaced” remark makes it clear what his stance is.

“They’re not built like some of these teams that go tempo the whole time and go hurry up the whole time,” Smart said. “They’re built more, they can go, they can they can go with tempo they do, they do tempo well, but they’re really big. They can take shots down the hill with explosive wideouts they have. They make you defend the entire field.”

Later, Smart heaped praise on Tide receiver Jaylen Waddle, calling him as “dynamic and as electric as I’ve seen.”

“I mean when he touches the ball, you can see it on tape, it pops off and it’s really not just special teams,” Smart said. “They find ways all over the field to get the ball. They move him around. They motion him. They’re getting him touches every way you can and, you know, shame on them if they don’t, because he’s electric when he touches the ball.”

All very true, Kirbs. I know the plan is to do the usual coach-speak and talk up the other team to motivate your own, but in this case, everyone knows just how true it is. In fact, it might be so true that it disheartens his own defense.

At least, it’s fun to think that, anyway.

2017: Hello, Tua (25). The biggest of all Alabama-Georgia games was played in shiny new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. At stake, the College Football Playoff national championship. And the ‘Dogs all but had it before ‘Bama ripped it away. Fact: Georgia never trailed until the final play. It led 13–0 at halftime, prompting a daring (and desperate) decision by Saban to bench quarterback Jalen Hurts in favor of untested freshman Tua Tagovailoa. The rest is glorious or ruinous history, depending on rooting interest. Tagovailoa led Alabama back to a tie at 20 at the end of regulation, but Georgia took a 23–20 lead and had ‘Bama backed up to the 41–yard line after Tua took an ill-advised sack. But second and 26 is the most famous down and distance in Alabama lore for a reason—Tua went deep, DeVonta Smith made the catch, and the Tide had a walk-off national championship.

You think Kirby Smart has been game planning for Alabama to make a QB change in the second half? He’s probably spent half the summer planning for Bryce Young.

Lane is doing his absolute best to win over the Alabama faithful in preparation for when Saban retires. And consider me won over.

The NCAA membership will vote in January on whether to allow every student-athlete, with or without a diploma, to transfer once without having to redshirt. Between the number of grad transfers and the NCAA’s increasing willingness to grant waivers to undergrads — take a bow, quarterback Justin Fields of No. 6 Ohio State (nee Georgia), wide receiver Reggie Roberson of No. 17 SMU (nee West Virginia), running back Jashaun Corbin of Florida State (nee Texas A&M) — college football already is well on its way to free agency.

Sonny Dykes deftly employed grad and undergrad transfers to transform SMU into a 10-win team last season. The Mustangs, after defeating Memphis 30-27 on Oct. 3, became the first 4-0 team in the nation this season. Dykes has played the transfer rule like Yo-Yo Ma on the cello. He figured out soon after arriving at SMU in 2018 that he could position the Dallas school as a haven for disaffected Metroplex natives who wanted to return home from faraway campuses. SMU signed 13 transfers before the 2019 season.

Personally, I like the blanket one-time transfer idea. But you just KNOW it’s gonna take all of about 2 seasons before some QB is going to use his transfer to try and get more playing time, wind up benched at the new school as well, and then try to get a waiver for some hardship or another for a second free transfer.

This is a cool breakdown from Joel Klatt talking about Najee Harris. Particularly, I wanted to point out the influence of Steve Sarkisian here. Despite their reputation as a “rush-heavy” offense in the early part of the decade, Alabama’s primarily used a zone blocking scheme for most of Saban’s tenure. The last two seasons under Sarkisian have featured a lot of pulling guards in a more pure power scheme, and I personally think that’s why Najee Harris and the run game struggled a bit in the first half of the 2019 season.

Finally, a couple of Tide running backs got in on the action on Tuesday (?) Night Football last night.

Derrick Henry deposited the beleaguered soul of Josh Norman into the nearest graveyard with that stiff arm. The Bills defense mostly held him in check, but he did get a couple of short yardage TDs and, of course, this galactic stiff arm.

Meanwhile, TJ Yeldon got some significant action with 52 yards on 7 carries, and he added this 22-yard touchdown for his first score since 2018.