Like with the defense, what we saw, schematically, from Alabama’s offense during the A-Day game likely had nothing to do with how the offense will look in real games. For the most part, the plays are called with the intent of working on certain aspects (I.E. it seemed Saban really, really wanted his QBs to figure out the right reads to beat cover 2 over the middle) and easy completion % boosters like screen passes are mostly avoided.
With that disclaimer out of the way, here are some of my observations from each position group:
First off, I thought the first team OL did really well in the run game. Both Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams averaged north of 5 yards per carry. Tyler Booker in particular noticeably pancaked dudes on more than one occasion. On the negative side of things, new LT Elijah Pritchett had a really, really hard day in pass protection. He was routinely beat by speed rushes from Keanu Koht, Quandarrius Robinson, and even lost some reps to a couple of walkons near the end of the game.
On the second team, I though freshman LT Kadyn Proctor looked like the most athletic and intimating player on the field, and he was darn near perfect. I will be surprised if he doesn’t challenge for the starting job.
I think this is going to be a bright spot for Alabama this year. We know Robbie Ouzts is a good blocker and a decent enough pass catcher. CJ Dippre didn’t do much in this game, but brings experience and athleticism.
Amari Niblack made a couple of really nice catches and though it doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, he definitely showcased a different gear to accelerate down the sidelines on one play. Finally, Danny Lewis looks to have made a big jump in progression from his freshman season and is a hulking athlete out there that can throw some bone-crunching blocks AND was a favorite target across the middle of the 2nd team QBs. Freshman Ty Lockwood dropped his only target.
This is a position group with 4 guys who can be very good players. Seniors Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams are both now over a year removed from their ACL injuries and should be more explosive runners than they were last year.
Sophomore Jam Miller seems to have more juice packed into his compact frame and is a big play waiting to happen. And then freshman Justice Haynes has been all the talk of the spring as a do-it-all guy that looks pro-ready from day 1. Haynes showcased a veteran-like savvy in pass protection, catching a TD over the middle, and navigating heavy traffic to get two short-yardage TDs
Alabama should be more than fine in this regard.
As a group, this is where things get interesting. Alabama has a lot of players with a lot of speed and talent, but the group as a whole has been plagued by drops for the last two seasons, and it returned again during A-Day. Nick Saban mentioned afterwards that it hadn’t been a problem all spring... But it sure was this weekend and it has been going back two seasons. So I’m not sure what to think about that.
In any case, Jermaine Burton had the best play of the day on the deep bomb from Ty Simpson... but the senior also had two bad drops. Ja’Corey Brooks made a really nice catch on a sideline slant-n-go route that beat Kool-Aid McKinstry.
Isaiah Bond had a couple of drops and didn’t do much else, and Kobe Prentice was OK, but couldn’t come down with a couple of contested balls (not really drops, but I’d have liked to have seen him come down with them).
JUCO transfer Malik Benson was invisible the entire game before taking over on the final drive of the game.
And then Kendrick Law might have the most impressive receiver, to me. The sophomore made a couple of really difficult catches along the sidelines and threw a couple of impressive block in the run game. He’s built like a linebacker playing slot receiver, and if Tommy Rees can figure out how to utilize that, I think he could be a force.
Finally, sophomore Emmanuel Henderson has been getting some love from Saban as a guy who’s really been improving and could be a factor as a kick returner. He also absolutely toasted Malachi Moore for a deep touchdown play. The former running back has legit speed.
For the younger players, Cole Adams has apparently been getting good reviews this spring, but I believe he say out this game with injury. Jalen Hale made one really nice catch and made a man miss, so he’s a guy to watch going forward. Jaren Hamilton did some nice things to beat his man a couple of times on deep routes, but wasn’t able to come down with the catches.
Again, there’s a lot of options here, but the group as a whole needs to step up the consistency. Even the two veteran starters in Brooks and Burton have to clean up some things, and the glut of 1st and 2nd year players need to produce a guy or two who can really step up and make dominant plays.
Finally, the QBs....
Everyone has alreadys spent all of the last two days talking about these guys, so I won’t rehash it too much.
Jalen Milroe can throw some really pretty balls down the sidelines. His honey hole shots to Kendrick Law and Malik Benson against cover 2 were NFL-level throws. And the speed he displayed on that read option TD was breathtaking and an absolute game changer.
On the other hand, he took 8 sacks (some of that was Pritchett getting worked over, but some was Milroe just not being comfortable operating the pocket and getting the ball out). When he just made his decision and threw quickly, things usually went well. But any time Milroe waited longer than throwing immediately, things seemed to go down hill.
He also struggled with accuracy when throwing to guys running horizontally across the middle. The ball placement was just consistently behind.
And that interception when he was backed up to his own goalline was disastrous and is the kind of play that loses football games.
Meanwhile, Ty Simpson looked fine. He started really well, hitting a bunch of short-to-mid distance passes and showing a lot of comfort with checking to RBs on angle routes and hitting TEs on flags and boots. As the game progressed, he started to try to push the ball downfield more and his accuracy seemed to be just barely off on a lot of tight throws.
He redeemed at the end with a beautifully-placed bomb to Burton, but ultimately came away from the day with a whole lot of passes that were the right decision and inches away from being an amazing day at QB, instead of a subpar completion percentage.
For the two freshmen, Eli Holstein’s first throw downfield looked like a wounded duck with a rock tied to its foot, and he didn’t really try to push anything deeper after that. But on other hand, Dylan Lonergan just looked like a natural QB, and quickly enamored himself to Alabama fans as he marched the offense right down the field in his limited drives.
Post A-Day predicted 2-deep depth chart
QB: Ty Simpson, Jalen Milroe
RB: Jase McClellan/Justice Haynes, Roydell Williams
WR: Ja’Corey Brooks, Isaiah Bond
WR: Jermaine Burton, Kobe Prentice
WR: Malik Benson/Kendrick Law
TE-Y: Robbie Ouzts, Danny Lewis
TE-H: CJ Dippre, Amari Niblack
LT: Kadyn Proctor, Elijah Pritchett
LG: Tyler Booker, TJ Ferguson
C: Seth McLaughlin, James Brockermeyer
RG: Darrian Dalcourt, Olaus Alinen
RT: J.C. Latham, Miles McVay
I think that, ultimately, Milroe’s constant threat of a disastrously bad play is going to outweigh his positives and cost him a starting job at QB. At RB, I was tempted to put all four running backs with slashes between them as I think they’ll all play... But I think that McClellan and Haynes will get the most touches.
I’m also not really sure how the TEs will shake out, as there are four guys with different skill sets that I think can all play good football, but I’m not sure how they’ll get on the field.
Potential Roster Moves
I think Miles Kitselman is a guy who could be a transfer candidate, as he’s likely 5th on the depth chart at TE. Same goes for Shazz Preston and Thaiu Jones-Bell at receiver. Though if Jones-Bell hasn’t transferred yet after getting passed up by younger players multiple times the past two seasons, he may just be one of those guys who is perfectly happy being a depth piece on the team.
There’s probably not enough players at OL or RB to worry about any of them transferring.
I’m not sure I really see any spots where Saban might be looking to bring in anyone from the transfer portal, either. The only spot that could be an option, really, is QB. And while Saban said that he wants do things with the guys he has, he most definitely did not rule it out when asked the question directly.
For now, though, I’m still going to project Ty Simpson winds up the starter, though the competition likely carries on into the start of the season, similar to how we saw things go in 2015 and 2016.