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Alabama looks to rebound after close loss to Texas A&M

NCAA Football: Alabama at Florida Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off of a rough loss to Texas A&M, the entire world will be watching to see how Alabama responds. For what it’s worth, the players are all saying all the right things:

Defensive lineman DJ Dale said he can look back and see that preparation wasn’t good last week. “It started on Monday, carried over to Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, just from a lack of preparation.

“We never should have been in that situation. But (Saban) said it before it even happened, that we were going to get hit in the mouth if we prepared the way we were preparing.

“The way you approach practice is everything. If you look at it like it’s going to be bad, long, hot, then that’s the way you’re going to practice. I feel like people’s mindset was there in the beginning of the week, and it showed on Saturday. You’ve got to approach it with energy, as a day to get better and a way to get better.”

“I think the game plan (Texas A&M) had, they executed it very well,” Anderson said. “I think they did a good job up front. I think just going forward, as a D-line and as linebackers, we need to watch film together more and we need to just realize our pass-rush lanes and how we can get to the quarterback more and be more effective so he doesn’t have all day in the pocket

Will Anderson in particular has been extremely blunt towards the defense in press conferences so far this week, and his passion and desire to improve are palpable. There’s a reason he’s already been selected as team captain multiple times this season despite only being a sophomore, and that kind of leadership is only going to give Alabama a boost in the next two seasons.

— Nick Saban had mentioned the need to have a few emergency backup running backs after the injury to Jace McClellan left the depth chart shortened. Freshman WR Christian Leary and LB Demouy Kennedy were spotted warming up with the backs at Texas A&M. “Christian definitely brings a quickness,” Bolden said. “He has good ball skills. I never got to really see much in high school, but based off what I’ve experienced with him playing receiver, he kind of brings a quick, scat-back type of player to the running back position.”

I actually really like both of these choices for emergency running backs. Leary is a stouter receiver that I remember excelling at bouncing off of tackles in high school. And Demouy Kennedy, for all of his praise as a linebacker, was a terrifying running back himself down in Theodore.

The list is headlined by JoJo Earle, a top-50 recruit from Texas who impressed in August camp. By the second week of the season, Nick Saban said Earle could be “special” and compared his skills to Jaylen Waddle.

Earle’s breakout game came days later when he caught seven passes for 85 yards and returned a punt for 29 yards against Mercer. But his performance against the FCS opponent did not translate to more playing time, at least offensively, in SEC play.

Alabama has leaned on its two tight end package this season under new coordinator Bill O’Brien, and when a third receiver has been on the field, Slade Bolden has often been the choice over Earle. The freshman has been targeted once in each of the Tide’s three conference games, catching passes of 18 yards (Florida), 1 yard (Ole Miss) and 19 yards (Texas A&M). He was not targeted against Southern Miss.

But even in his limited role, Earle has out-produced the other six wide receivers in Alabama’s 2020 and 2021 recruiting classes. He has 12 catches for 148 yards, more than the totals for sophomores Javon Baker (seven catches, 95 yards), Traeshon Holden (six catches, 75 yards) and Thaiu Jones-Bell (one catch, minus-2 yards), as well as other freshmen Agiye Hall (one catch, 10 yards), Ja’Corey Brooks (no catches) and Christian Leary (no catches).

JoJo Earle has made good things happen every single time the ball has come his way, and so I want to see him more. I’m not sure what it is he needs to do to prove to the coaches he can handle a full-time role, but I hope he can do it soon. The Tide needs that kind of unique explosiveness on the field.

Finally, here’s Charlie Potter from 247’s weekly roundup of Alabama alumni generally dominating the NFL:

Alabama was again well-represented during another week of professional football, as several former Crimson Tide players were contributors for teams across the National Football League.

Six former Alabama players scored touchdowns in Week 5 in quarterbacks Jalen Hurts (Eagles) and Mac Jones (Patriots), running backs Najee Harris (Steelers), Derrick Henry (Titans) and Josh Jacobs (Raiders) and wide receiver Amari Cooper (Cowboys). Najee Harris and Henry, who scored three rushing touchdowns on Sunday, both eclipsed 100 rushing yards.

Defensively, cornerback Trevon Diggs (Cowboys) picked off his sixth pass of the season, which makes him the first player since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to record six interceptions in the first five games of a single season. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (Steelers) led all former Alabama players with 10 tackles, while linebacker C.J. Mosley (Jets) recorded eight tackles.

Hurts put up big numbers, and Jones made waves for pulling off a 4th quarter comeback with blood all over his face. Meanwhile, Najee Harris and Derrick Henry are putting up big numbers on staggering workloads. And, of course, Trevon Diggs is currently one of the biggest stories in the NFL as he continues his crazy streak of interceptions.

Soon, the whole NFL is just going to be a league of Alabama graduates.

Roll Tide!