clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Initial Impressions from the South Florida Game

It wasn’t pretty, but it wasn’t a loss. Let SEC play begin, for better or worse.

NCAA Football: Alabama at South Florida Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama went down to Tampa on Saturday and took care of business, scoring almost six times as many points as the South Florida Bulls.

What, that’s not the opening line you were expecting?


Look, theories abound on the quarterback situation. More than a few folks have guessed after the game that Jalen Milroe is indeed the starter and was all along. I’ve seen all kinds of reasons that Jalen didn’t play yesterday:

  • Didn’t have a good week of practice and was benched to send a message
  • Backups needed work since they’ve had little and they may be needed later in the season
  • Saban was tired of hearing all the crap from fans and threw the others out there to shut everyone up

It also could be that the staff wanted to get one more extended look at Tyler Buchner and Ty Simpson before making a final decision. Ty did reasonably well in spots, but I will be surprised if Jalen Milroe isn’t running the show next weekend. Hopefully he is able to play more to his strengths than he did against Texas. I’ll say again, if he can strike that balance between using his legs and taking what the defense gives him in the passing game, he can be a dynamic player even if he never becomes an elite pure passer.

The fact is that nobody on this roster is going to have a chance to become a pure passer unless the offensive line can protect. The good news this week is that the bulk of the pressures came off bliltzes, and a lack of awareness from the quarterbacks was the primary issue. The Bulls got five sacks, and three of them went to the same cornerback. He did victimize both JC Latham and Kadyn Proctor with the speed rush, but a corner is always a tough assignment for an offensive tackle in space. They did make him run around them, which on a corner blitz should give enough time to diagnose and get the ball out.

South Florida was extremely aggressive in the red zone, and Simpson didn’t handle those zero blitzes very well. Any SEC defensive coordinator who watches that tape is going to send five on every down in hopes of mucking up the run game and pressuring the passer. Until Simpson shows the ability to burn the blitz, he’s going to get teed off on.

This is why it seems to me that Milroe will be the choice going forward. There is no flawless option available, but they can win with him if he’s utilized correctly. My hope is that they are able to build on some of the road grading momentum gained in the second half yesterday and call more RPOs and zone reads, with a few play action shot plays mixed in. Running the ball and putting both first- and second-level defenders in conflict frequently tends to have a slowing effect on pass rushers. We’ll see what the strategy looks like next week, but success will hinge on the offensive line’s ability to impose its will. Jase McClellan and especially Roydell Williams were able to find success in Tampa, and we will need that to continue.

The defense looked good other than allowing the QB to get loose too many times, but this South Florida offense is generally anemic. Still, the defense has played well other than the big play issue against Texas. Quinn Ewers was back to missing all his deep shots this week , needing 21 passes to amass 131 yards on Wyoming after hitting three passes for 115 yards against Alabama, which is about par for the course it seems. As Nick said after that game, defensive backs can’t allow the ball to be thrown over their heads, and if they had been able to prevent that then they’d likely be undefeated right now despite all the flaws.

There was ample pressure on the opposing passer this week, though as mentioned above the discipline to stay in rush lanes wasn’t always there. It’s tough not to be excited about Deontae Lawson at this point. That dude is seemingly everywhere and continues to bring CJ Mosley vibes. Dallas Turner showed some leadership and made a few plays. Jaheim Oatis was out with an ankle problem, and we need to get him back as soon as possible. South Florida was so overmatched on that side of the ball, particularly on the perimeter, that it’s tough to glean much else.

Discipline still needs to improve. Besides the pass rush issue, we had a facemask penalty on Trezmen Marshall to extend a USF drive, Lawson jumped offsides to gift a first down, and Kool Aid McKinstry made about as boneheaded a punt muff as you’ll ever see. Film work will not be kind to him there. James Burnip was awesome and sadly got plenty of work, and Will Reichard was as steady as ever.

As I wrote in this space last week, the margin for error is gone. SEC play starts next week against an Ole Miss squad that hasn’t quite lived up to its preseason hype offensively. Will they put together an A game and have Alabama out of playoff contention before October, or will Alabama finally figure some things out and find an identity?

Hope for the best.

Roll Tide.