In a 55-3 blasting of the Vanderbilt Commodores, Alabama finally put together a game where they played at peak performance in all phases of the game through all 4 quarters. As such, there weren’t too many bad moments to choose from, so the ones I do pick here are really just nitpicking... And when it comes to good moments, well, I had to pare down the list.
In any case, here are the individual moments throughout this game that caught my eye that may not have been things talked much about on the broadcast:
We’re nearing the end of the first half, and Vanderbilt is looking to get some yards on this drive to stay within one score of Alabama. They line up with a tight bunch formation intended to confuse the responsibilities of the defenders and then run a play action screen pass.
Overall, a lot of players did good here. Will Anderson held contain briefly when he realized he wasn’t blocked before making a bee line for the screen guy (I’ve seen many, many professional defensive linemen just go all in for a QB hit here). Henry To’o To’o swats away a blocker and heads to the play. Jordan Battle reads it instantly and crashes. And CB Terrion Arnold broke forward and knocked a blocker backwards to hold outside contain.
The most impressive, though, was Brian Branch. The sub-200 pound DB took on a direct block from the TE at the line of scrimmage, out-leveraged him, shed the block, and then initiated the tackle for loss.
Branch being able to make plays like this is what enables the Alabama defense to play with one less lineman/linebacker on a regular basis.
In pretty much the antithesis to what the Alabama defense did on my last highlighted play, the Tide offense utterly failed at running a screen here.
The biggest issue, of course, is TE Cam Latu getting blown up by #13, who is all of 201 pounds, and allowing a bad tackle for loss. He came in hesitant, didn’t set his feet, and just got out-physicaled. Not a good showing for the senior.
On top of that, though, I don’t love the way the formation was designed. Latu had to come from way too far away, and that at least contributed to him not being in good position. I also really don’t like how lackluster Bryce Young was with his play action fake. The safety never once hesitated at the play fake and immediately broke on the screen.
I believe this is 3 of the last 4 weeks that Jaheim Oatis has made it into this column for a nice tackle at the line of scrimmage. It’s third and 2 here, with Vanderbilt trying to get a short yardage conversion. Will Anderson and Byron Young both fan a little wide here to prevent the off-tackle run, so Oatis is tasked with effectively managed two gaps on his own. He takes on a double-team from the center and guard, stonewalls them, and then sheds laterally at the last second to step in front of the running back. It’s a great display of both strength and lateral quickness, but is, even more, a display of good gap discipline.
Some bonus credit here goes to Tim Smith who obliterated his man on the backside to eliminate any chance of a cut back.
One of Alabama’s most underrated issues in 2021 was their ability to convert in short yardage situations with run plays. Unfortunately, that seems to have returned in 2022.
The first issue is that TWO guys shoot into the backfield for free from the right side. For some reason, Cam Latu ignored both and moved to take on the safety at the endzone line and Robbie Ouzts shot out to the corner. I think that Latu took the right guy and Danny Lewis should have taken that inside rusher, rather than helping chip Kendall Randoph’s guy, and I think Ouzts went to the wrong defender. I could be wrong though, and Latu really screwed up.
In either case, the 4-TE look definitely didn’t have great coordination on who blocks who.
And really it wouldn’t have mattered, since Jase McClellan smoothed his way around the free blitzer and should have had a path to the endzone, had J.C. Latham not just been totally overpowered and tossed backwards into Jase. Javion Cohen also got hit backwards a little, preventing a cutback.
But, man, J.C. That was a player you outweigh by nearly 40 pounds and he tossed you backwards on a second effort.
It’s 3rd down here, and Vanderbilt sends a heavy zone blitz at Jalen Milroe to force a checkdown and try to rally to make the underneath tackle. Obviously, it was a good, quick decision under pressure from Milroe. But I was really impressed by the freshman receiver, Isaiah Bond, here. He caught the ball moving laterally and had two defenders between him and the first down line.
Many players (especially freshmen with as much speed as Bond) would have tried to continue running horizontal and beat that hook zone defender around the corner. Instead, Bond understood exactly where the first down line was, what the game situation was, and made the correct move to make an immediate cut up field between the defenders to get the sure bet and move the chains rather than risking it to make the big play to the sidelines.
And as a bonus for him, Bond also impressed me with his situational awareness only a couple of plays earlier when Milroe had a ball tipped at the line of scrimmage and Bond sprinted backwards to the ball but let it hit the ground once he was sure he was the only guy there and it wouldn’t be picked.
Just a couple of heads up plays from the freshman.