Alabama annually reloads for a run at the national title. A loss to Clemson in last year’s championship provides ample motivation for the offseason. Most likely the nation’s preseason top ranked team, Bama opens with a challenging game against Florida State in Atlanta. There is an embarrassing amount of riches in the form of elite talent in Tuscaloosa.
Just like every team in America, Alabama had flaws a year ago Those decencies weren’t exposed until it met up with Clemson. SEC competition wasn’t at a level to uncover blemishes as 2016 was a down year in the conference. That’s probably not a popular comment here from the place that repeatedly uses the branding “It just means more.” Home conference games against LSU, Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Tennessee sets up nicely. A road trip in the season’s finale in the Iron Bowl could decide Atlanta’s West division’s participant.
-Head Coach: Nick Saban, 114-19 at Alabama.
-2016 Results: 14-1, lost to Clemson in National Championship.
-Opener: Vs. Florida State in Atlanta
Nick Saban hired former New England Patriot coach Brian Daboll to run his offense. Quarterback Jalen Hurts (3734-total yards, 36 TD’s) was the league’s Most Valuable Offensive Player in 2016 and is only a true sophomore. He’ll have a loaded backfield that includes Kentucky native Damien Harris (1037-yards), Bo Scarbrough (812-yards, 11 TD’s), Josh Jacobs (567-yards) and true freshman Najee Harris to run behind one of the SEC’s top offensive lines. Tackle Jonah Williams moves from the right to left side. WR Calvin Ridley (72-catches, 7 TD’s) is the one of the conference’s top pass catchers but replacing TE OJ Howard is a concern. The only question mark (and it’s a small one) is at right tackle.
Returning Statistical Leaders
-Returning Starters: 6
-Passing: Jalen Hurts-240/382, 2780-yards, 23 TD’s, 9 INT’s
-Rushing: Damien Harris-146 carries, 1037-yards, 2 TD’s
-Receiving: Calvin Ridley-72 receptions, 769-yards, 7 TD’s
2016 Offensive Results
-Scoring 38.8 ppg (SEC-1st)
-Rushing 245 ypg (SEC-2nd)
-Passing 210.3 ypg (SEC-8th)
-Total 455.3 ypg (SEC-4th)
The Heisman Trophy is intended to be given to the best football player in college football. Normally its presented quarterback or running back. Safety/Cornerback/Nickel Minkah Fitzpatrick (66-tackles, 4 TFL, and 6 INT’s) may be the most deserving player in 2017. Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s 2016 defense finished 1st in the conference’s scoring, rushing, passing, and total defensive categories. But, several starters off a dominant front seven were selected in the NFL Draft. NT Da’Ron Payne (36-tackles, 1.5 sacks) will lead the up-front along with a string of former megastar prospects. Rashaan Evans (53-tackles, 4 QB sacks) and Shaun Dion Hamilton (64 tackles) return at linebacker. Safety Ronnie Harrison (86 tackles) led the Tide in tackles a year ago and will join Fitzpatrick at safety to construct the SEC’s top combo at that position.
Returning Statistical Leaders
-Returning Starters: 6
-Tackles: Ronnie Harrison-86
-QB Sacks: Rashaan Evans-4
-Interceptions: Minkah Fitzpatrick-6
2016 Defensive Results
-Scoring 13 ppg (SEC-1st)
-Rushing 63.9 ypg (SEC-1st)
-Passing 197.9 ypg (SEC-1st)
-Total 261.8 ypg (SEC-1st)
IMPACT ON KENTUCKY
Tennessee travels to Tuscaloosa the week prior to visiting Kroger Field. The Vols could still be feeling the effects of the Crimson Tide’s physical nature and enter the UK game bruised and battered. Plus, it’s nearly certain that Alabama will beat all common opponents, so laying a L on competitors in the chase for the East is an added impact.
Nick Saban Excerpts
State of the Program
“And we're pleased with the team's progression through this summer. They are currently working very hard, work out, do a great job of individually staying organized and how they can develop, whether it's in 7-on-7 and the type of drills that coaches aren't allowed to be involved with that I think has really helped the development of our young players, which I think this is going to be one of the youngest teams that we've had probably since maybe 2012, especially on defense, where we lost a ton of really, really good players, I think seven guys drafted off the defense, all in the first four rounds. So it's going to be a challenge to replace those guys.”
About his offense
“You know, offensively, this is the first time that we've had a returning starter at quarterback since 2013, which creates the opportunity for that guy to develop in the things that he needs to do better, which Jalen has done a good job in the offseason of becoming a better passer, understanding the passing game better, and we have some good running backs, and we have some good receivers and skill guys, and the offensive line has developed nicely. So it's going to be a challenge for us offensively to be able to have the kind of team that we need to have to help our defense, especially early on. But I think it's important that our team develop an identity, which is always a challenge from a coaching standpoint, that all the players buy into, take ownership for, and are accountable to, doing the things that we need to do to establish the identity that we want to establish of being a team that's difficult to play against because of our ability to execute, play with mental and physical toughness, be able to finish, which we weren't able to do last year in the championship game.”