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Jumbo Package: Gump Day!

Does Alabama have a new best player?

NCAA Football: Alabama at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs received another individual honor after his impressive performance in the Crimson Tide’s 49-26 road win over the Arkansas Razorbacks on Oct. 1.

The junior tailback was named the Doak Walker Award National Running Back of the Week after he rushed for a career-high 206 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries in Fayetteville.

Man, don’t you just hate that, 1 year after Alabama took a top-15 NFL draft pick at receiver out of the transfer portal, Saban’s now poached a guy who might well wind up the top running back in the country? I don’t, but I sure bet the rest of the country does.

And if Gibbs keeps up this kind of production, the dude is going to find himself getting a very nice draft spot. The NFL teams absolutely love these receiving backs.

Brian Branch, the starter at the Tide’s linebacker/cornerback hybrid position, was taken out after an injury in the second quarter. Backup Malachi Moore started cramping and was off the field. Third-string Jahquez Robinson wasn’t available, either. Scanning the sidelines while fending off a comeback bid, Alabama coaches didn’t have many options. That’s when the preseason preparation came in.

Sophomore cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry had taken snaps as a Star in fall camp but hadn’t during the first five weeks of the season. On the sidelines, Nick Saban mentioned to senior safeties Jordan Battle and Demarcco Hellams, “Tell (McKinstry) what to do on every play.”

Meanwhile, ascending superstar Kool-Aid McKinstry continues to make his case that he might well be the best player on this team (and I say that knowing full well that Bryce Young and Will Anderson would have gone 1 and 2 in last year’s NFL draft had they been eligible). Kool-Aid has been absolutely phenomenal at cornerback, earned Saban’s trust to play Star on a moment’s notice, and is also consistently giving the Tide’s offense the best field position in the country.

Seriously, we haven’t seen someone with his natural feel for navigating an entire field on punt returns since Javier Arenas.

DeMarcco Hellams Cites Alabama Preparation For Success

Last year Hellams turned in an interception against the Aggies, one of three he had as a junior starter. Last week against Arkansas in Fayetteville he had a key defensive play, causing and recovering a fumble.

“I was fired up about it because I work on it in practice,” he said. “We do drills for that. I saw my opportunity and I took the opportunity to get the ball back for our team. It was a great moment for me seeing the preparation we put in in practice show in the game.

“It’s something that we emphasize, getting the ball back for the offense in best situations possible. We work on things as far as turning the ball over every day in practice. When we go into the games it’s something we’re always looking to do, get the ball back for our offense.”

DeMarcco Hellams, along with Jordan Battle and Brian Branch, has quietly turned Alabama’s secondary into an absolute juggernaught up the middle and in the back end of the field ever since the trio locked down starting jobs at the end of 2020. Every time the Tide’s defense has struggled since then has been when one of the three gets hurt.

In any case, Hellams makes it very clear that they remember what it was like to lose to the Aggies last year, and they don’t plan on letting it happen again. Max Johnson, I’m sorry in advance.

Dallas Turner

“Practicing against J-Mill in the pocket as a pass rusher, it’s kind of hard even just trying to tap off Jalen. Just his explosiveness and his athleticism, it kind of makes things a lot more difficult in practice, and I feel like that just prepares us for the game if we play against a dude that likes to run a lot.”

While Saban is continuing his season-long tirade about media people asking about injuries, we are left with speculating whether or not Heisman QB Bryce Young will be playing in this weekend’s revenge game against Texas A&M, or if we’ll get our first full game of the Jalen Milroe experience.

He didn’t particularly impress in the passing game last week, but neither did Mac Jones when he first hit the field unexpectedly in the wake of one of Tua Tagovailoa’s injuries. But what Milroe did do was show out as possibly the best athlete on the field and just vaporize the poor defenders trying to catch him. That kind of speed at the QB position just isn’t fair.

And, of course, now A&M has to prepare for both Young’s passing game and Milroe’s rocket boosters.

“You know, we could go say it was the same situation a year ago,” Saban acknowledged in his opening statement for a Monday news conference that got steadily more heated as it progressed.

Later asked about how Alabama players handle social media pressure opened the door for Saban to drive home his larger point related to last year’s letdown.

“Obviously, at times, we haven’t handled it very well because I was talking about rat poison last year when we played this game, and nobody wouldn’t listen,” Saban said. “Players wouldn’t listen, y’all didn’t listen. They had lost the week before. We were big favorites. It was like no big deal, just show up for this game and go play the next game.”

Last week, Alabama learned how to win without Bryce Young.

That’s something that I think has been missing from this team, as it’s seemed like much of the offense the last season and a half has been “let’s hope Bryce does something awesome.” Hopefully they can carry that into this week against the Aggies, whether Young plays or not.

Here’s what the CBS talking heads think:

“You look at the 3 home games Bama’s played, they’ve outscored opponents 173-10,” Cross noted. “It won’t be quite that lopsided, but Bama all the way.”

“I think Bama’s going to win this game big as well,” said Taylor. “We know the SEC is a line-of-scrimmage league. Well, (Bama’s) defense leads the conference in rush defense, so Texas A&M is not going to be able to run there.”

Neuheisel mentioned that in the previous week, he picked Arkansas to beat Alabama. “I’m not making that mistake again. It’s Alabama,” he said.

Jones cited Texas A&M’s offensive struggles before predicting that it would be “all Bama.”

“I don’t care what they dial up for Milroe, Bama’s defense may score than the Aggies’ offense,” he said.

There’s overwhelming love for the Tide there. Saban obviously hates it, but, objectively, they’re most likely right here. This just isn’t likely to be pretty for the Aggies.

Roll Tide!