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Jumbo Package: Alabama Crimson Tide gets set for Heavyweight Playoff Matchup with Notre Dame

Can Alabama replace the leadership, energy, and production of Landon Dickerson?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 01 Camping World Kickoff - Alabama v Louisville Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“Chris has been here for many years, and he’s also one of my close buddies,” Jones said. “He does a good job. He’s played tackle, guard, center. We go way back years and years. We have that same communication level. We’ve been working on it this week.

“I’ve been really proud of him and the opportunity that he’s gotten. I mean, that’s a great experience just to be able to say, ‘Hey, I’m starting the College Football Playoff game and I’ve been here a while.’ We have that same similar late-bloom, so I’m just really excited for Chris. We’re on the same page and we’re ready to roll.”

It’s really just not fair that Alabama is going into the playoffs missing two of their most exciting players to watch in Jaylen Waddle and Landon Dickerson.

Next man up, though. Chris Owens was one of my favorite recruits from his class years ago. I remember being extremely impressed with his footwork in the All-Star game after his senior year— which is something rare in High School offensive linemen that usually just thrive on being bigger than the competition.

Owens did have some struggles at the start of 2019, but has been a reliable swing player the last few years and should fill in nicely. He may not make quite the highlight blocks that Dickerson did, but I don’t think we’ll have to worry about massive mistakes.

“There’s not many tight ends returning kickoffs,” tight end Miller Forristall said. “Anytime one tight end gets love, we all get love, we all eat. Him returning kicks is basically like me returning kicks. That’s how I feel about it at least. He’s a guy who has really grown up this season, and everybody has seen him evolve and the player he can be. You get flashes of what he can be. If he’s consistent and puts his head down, he’s going to be a really good special talent.”

As a receiver, Billingsley has emerged as one of Jones’ top targets over the last five games. He has caught 12 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns this fall, with all but one coming in the second half of the schedule. His athleticism makes him a difficult player to defend.

“Jahleel, he’s a special player,” cornerback Patrick Surtain II said. “He’s not an ordinary tight end. He’s a tight end that’s capable of doing many things out in the perimeter. He’s got a tremendous catch radius and he’s also fast for a tight end. He brings many traits to the table.”

The meteoric rise of Billingsley in the last few games has been a spectacular sight. He played a little in place of an injured Forristall in 2019 and looked extremely hesitant and lost, then didn’t play for the first half of this season, leading most of us to start writing him off. Now he’s all of a sudden one of the top passing targets, is making some nice blocks, and even has the coaches trust to return kickoffs and take handoffs.

The dude is going to be rivalling Jase McClellan in terms of message board off-season hype this spring.

As of today, there are no rumors of Alabama about to lose either Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian or Defensive Coordinator Pete Golding.

In fact, the shoe is on the other foot. With the Tide preparing to play Notre Dame in the semifinals of the CFP in the Rose Bowl at Arlington, Texas, Friday, the Irish have a so-called lame duck defensive coordinator in Clark Lea. Following his work to finish up this season, Lea will take over full time as head coach at his alma mater, Vanderbilt.

I am beyond relieved that we’re not having to deal with coaching turnover in the middle of the playoffs again, and it’s happening to someone else this time. I’d like for Clemson and Ohio State to get in on the party as well (especially since OSU gets to sneak in with a fresh, fully healthy team), but just Notre Dame will do.

For his part, Lea was a hot commodity as an up and coming coach, so Vanderbilt is taking a risk that could really pay off by being his first head coaching job.

A lot of ND fans view this as Lea going to get trained up as a head coach and hope to hire him back to the Irish after Brian Kelly moves on.

Four Alabama signees and one 2022 commitment are up for 2020 season awards, as the Alabama Sports Writers Association announced their finalists for Lineman and Back of the Year on Tuesday night.

Making the cut among future Tiders are:

Ian Jackson

Ga’Quincy McKinstry

Anquin Barnes

Deontae Lawson

Robert Woodyard

Nice to see the Tide recruiting in-state so well. I love all the out-of-state splash recruits, but there’s just something about getting the Alabama natives. Lawson and Woodyard are actually running against each other for the 4A lineman of the year.

Five Alabama players became consensus All-American selections Wednesday when the Football Writers Association of America released its annual list, one of five official lists recognized by the NCAA.

Running back Najee Harris, wide receiver DeVonta Smith, offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, center Landon Dickerson and cornerback Patrick Surtain were all first-team selections.

All five players were also named as first-team selections to the Associated Press and Sporting News lists earlier this week, meaning each player has reached consensus All-American status. Those five players can reach unanimous All-American status if they are also named to the first teams of the AFCA and Walter Camp lists, which have yet to be released.

The honors just keep rolling in. This football team has been an absolute joy to watch this year. Two games to go for them to close it out. And if they get it, this could very well go down as my favorite Alabama team ever.

Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones said Hamilton was “almost like an Ed Reed-type person” because you had to know where he was on every snap.

“He’s all over the tape,” Jones said. “You see him everywhere. He’s blitzing, he’s in the back end, hiding pressures then coming or, you know, covering people. So he’s a real lengthy guy. I think he’s like 6-4. You can see it on the tape. He understands football. You can tell he really studies his part and he knows exactly what to do.”

You’ve got a lot of quotes in this piece detailing just how much the Tide players have been studying the Notre Dame defense. This is a fun defensive scheme to watch, and I love their 6’4” safety, Kyle Hamilton.

That said, I think there’s some definitely vulnerabilities in the scheme and players in terms of containing outside runs and speedy players, and that’s where Sarkisian will look target them.