Saturday, August 31, 2019

Finally: Alabama 2019 Season Preview

The Alabama Crimson Tide wants to build a bridge between last year's almost perfect season and another National Championship (sorry, that was irresistible).

Nick Saban wants to do that by going back to the style of football he used to rebuild the Tide program into a perennial SEC and national powerhouse. He wants more power football. More physical defense. Always reliable special teams.

Yes, please!

Saban's brief experiment with "a more explosive offense" was productive--Bama won two SEC championships and three straight appearances in the National Championship game.  Bama has beaten Georgia and Clemson more than once each with that style of football, but almost all of the wins were high scoring slugfests. The two losses to Clemson were games played on Clemson's terms, not Alabama's.

Coach says "no more" to basketball-on-turf.

For 2019, the ground-oriented pro-style scheme is back. We still have the best QB in the nation in Tua Tagovailoa. We still have the nation's best receivers in Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle and Henry Ruggs III. Tyrell Shavers also returns, and DeVonta Smith (who has to sit out a suspension Saturday) is also back.

Behind Tua is a fleet of bowling balls for running backs: Najee Harris, Brian Robinson, (both sitting one half today), and redshirt Senior De’Marquise Lockridge are all beasts. Athletic scatsters Chadarius Townsend and freshman sensation Keilan Robinson can move chains in a hurry.

The offensive line was the weakest link in the 2018 squad, and that weak spot wasn't exploited until Bama met their physical equals-or-betters in the post season. It will be a question mark again in 2019. Bama is loaded with very young four and five star talent. The key will be to get the best five guys at their best positions and pray that they can play together as a unit all season long. Think about the 2011-2012 teams that won back-to-back titles, and you'll visualize what can happen.

Saban's teams have never had bad defenses. Chuck Oliver, Jesse Palmer and other talking heads pointing to the scores of Bama's games against Clemson and Georgia are missing the fact that the offense had problems staying on the field, converting third downs and scoring in the red zone. Consider: In the second half against Clemson, Bama had three trips in the red zone and scored zero points. If we see the offensive throwback to 2011-2012, we'll see the throwback to every Saban defense ever fielded.

Saban's 3-4 over under defensive strategy is built to take away or punish plays in the middle and make quarterbacks beat physical, fast and well-coached backfields outside. Outside plays are always longer, and always longer is always harder. Always harder means less likely. It's smart defense and it usually wins championships.

Up front, graduation sent a lot of talent to the NFL but the beastly beast Raekwon Davis is back. He'll have a lot of talent with him in the trenches but it will feature a ton of very young talent. Fortunately, the kinds of skills a Saban defense needs up front are talents that come from the womb. Expect to see a lot of new faces and expect to see a lot of enthusiasm and athleticism. Expect penalties, too.

Behind the line, Bama is again loaded with talent. Expected stud Terrell Lewis is finally ready and healthy to make noise at linebacker (he sits out one half today, too), but Dylan Moses is out for the year with a knee injury. Christopher Allen and Anfernee Jennings are back, though.

Saban's defenses always feature the nation's best corners and safeties. Expect no less in 2019. Coach was a defensive back in his playing days. As an assistant coach, he always tutored DB's and he is the DB position coach at Bama. Trevon Diggs. Patrick Surtain. Shyheim Carter. Jared Mayden and Jeffery Carter. All of these guys will play on Sundays in a few years. In fact, man-for-man, the Tide has what could be Saban's deepest and most talented secondary ever.

Note this: The 2019 secondary was hand-picked and personally built to frustrate the Jake Fromms, Trevor Lawrences and yes... even the Jalen Hurts that Bama is likely to face should we be so fortunate to see an SEC Title and Playoff berth.

Special teams... Can we please just see progress, if not perfection?

This is one of the most talented teams in Alabama history. Honestly, we haven't seen this depth and quality at least since 2011-2012, and an argument can be credibly made that we haven't seen it since the NCAA clamped down on scholarship limits to keep Coach Paul W.  Bryant from stockpiling all the best dudes.

On the other hand, this is also a very young team. With youth expect mistakes, and with mistakes, a loss is not unforeseeable. This may not be the year we mount the 18th trophy. But the talent is there and if Bama makes the title game healthy, they'll be the odds on favorite to win it all.

Roll Tide


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