clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Jumbo Package: Rewinding the passing game issues in Texas

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Texas Austin American-Statesman-USA TODAY NETWORK

Happy Monday, everyone. Alabama is no longer a consensus no. 1 team as Georgia overtook them in the AP poll. The Tide fell only one spot, however, and kept the top spot in the Coaches’ Poll. I’d have rather seen them fall a bit further personally.

After the narrow escape in Austin, the question is whether we all were wrong about Texas, Alabama, or both. My suspicion is that it’s both, at least at this stage of the season, but there is room for this Alabama team to grow. While it may not have been quite as awful as it seemed, the passing game was by far the most glaring concern.

— It would be nice to have an All-22 look at the action because, in real time at the stadium, it looked like the Tide receivers just couldn’t find much daylight downfield. The fact Jermaine Burton had just two catches for 10 yards after being tabbed as the most consistent wideout in the preseason is a turn of events.

— The third-down conversion on the opening drive, a 13-yarder to Prentice was the only downfield reception for a wideout until the fourth quarter. Let that sink in for a minute. The only other two between then were screens to Holden and Burton that went for negative-1 and two yards respectively on consecutive snaps.

“Start with play calling. Bill O’Brien’s play selection at times in the game was atrocious. The offensive line didn’t help matters much, but, fortunately, you do have the best quarterback in the country. But it was the penalties. Over and over again mistakes were made. Including some, quite a few I might add, by Will Anderson Jr., who many of us keep insisting has to be in New York for the Heisman ceremony. So there’s a lot to do.”

So, as usual, the offensive coordinator and the offensive line are fair game but because the quarterback won a Heisman last year, he is above reproach. I love Bryce as much as anyone, but sometimes his cerebral approach to the game leads to more thinking and less reacting. The offense actually started off quite well, both passing and running. Personally, I think two plays in the second quarter led to a bit of indecisiveness:

First, the sack on the A gap blitz where Bryce had no time whatsoever because Jahmyr Gibbs blew his blocking assignment...

and then the third down play where Kobe Prentice failed to sit in his zone, leading to what could have been a very dangerous tip drill situation.

Prentice will undoubtedly learn as he didn’t arrive on campus until summer, but nothing will create a few cobwebs for a quarterback like a lack of trust in his protection or receivers to be where they are supposed to be. This can lead to some indecisiveness, but give Gary Patterson’s defense credit as well. They disguised their coverages quite well and confused Young’s pre-snap reads. On the play that should have been ruled a sack in the end zone, which actually turned out better for Texas since they got the ball in plus territory and scored a quick field goal, Jahmyr Gibbs was open to the field slide where the slot blitz came from.

This ball has to come out as soon as the drop is completed. Standing in the end zone for an extra second will not work.

Gibbs is one on one with a linebacker with plenty of room underneath. He has a great chance to make him miss and get the first down, but if not then he at least gives James Burnip a bit of breathing room and Young doesn’t get hit. The offensive line had its lapses, but there was ample time on this play.

All three elements were a bit uneven on Saturday: passer, pass catchers, and pass blockers, but things started to click just in time. I was actually more optimistic after the rewatch, seeing some chemistry develop late. With two more weeks to work out the kinks, I think the offense has a chance to look like we all thought it would by October, and it has to if Alabama is to navigate that stretch.

As far as the criticism of O’Brien goes, Saban and Young have both effusively praised his tutelage. Any time I find myself agreeing with Finebaum’s hot takes I tend to reconsider, but your mileage may vary. Patterson did an outstanding job mixing things up against a QB with a whole new set of targets, and last I checked Bryce and Bill started in their roles at the same time.

We got to see Young play a little under Sark as a freshman and it wasn’t pretty, but you can’t glean much from that. We didn’t get to see him as a starter under Sark, and we didn’t see what O’Brien might have done with Tua/Mac, Najee and the Rydeouts. When players execute, the coach is a genius. When they don’t, he’s a bum. We got a lot of people making assumptions out here looking for someone to blame, but I reckon that’s just ‘Murica nowadays.

If rat poison was a problem, that should take care of itself now. From Pete Thamel:

“All of the corners and receivers there are in the same boat,” said an NFL scout. “They have played but never really been the ‘guy’ per se. Someone there needs to step up and make plays.”

“I didn’t see a lot of speed,” added a second NFL scout.

Alabama will get a Texas-sized portion of the opposite of rat poison, the type of skepticism and negativity Saban will inevitably use to shape and mold his team.

But as they look forward, it’s not crazy to cast Georgia as the clear favorite in the SEC and Alabama at risk to lose multiple regular-season games. If you lack skill and speed on the outside on both sides of the ball, it’s hard to compete in modern college football.

There is plenty of speed at cornerback and receiver, but at this point none of Alabama’s burners have earned time. Of course, the fastest of the bunch has yet to take the field.

Harrell has Jameson Williams type speed and some experience, so hopefully he will help. A field stretcher is sorely needed.

You can probably surmise from the many years of Meltdown threads that there is a fair amount of trash in the Texas fanbase. Welp... (NSFW language)

Can’t wait to add this bunch to the league!

Last, I’m sure everyone here is aware that A&M lost to Appalachian State on Saturday. Seems like it was well deserved.

Yikes indeed.

That’s about it for today. Have a great week.

Roll Tide.