Last Saturday was the first scrimmage for the Alabama Crimson Tide since the huge loss to the Clemson Tigers in the 2019 National Championship. There were many position questions that were needed to be answered while some did get answered for the upcoming season. While some questions did get answered, there are still many with the football program that head coach Nick Saban and his team will be needed to establish. This scrimmage comes just two weeks before they will debut their 2019 program in front of their fans and the college football nation.
Mac Jones Reestablishes Himself as Backup Quarterback
Coach Saban had to clarify almost immediately that 2018 Heisman Trophy runner-up in Tua Tagovailoa was the starting quarterback. This was to avoid the easy headline grabbers that Saban hasn’t named Tagovailoa as the starter. The bigger question from the quarterback position was to establish a permanent backup to Tagovailoa. It was quickly clear this past weekend when sophomore Mac Jones was participating with the first team reps. Coach Saban said that Jones really defined himself as a passer and a playmaker while with the first team. At the same time, Saban made it clear that 5-star freshman quarterbacks in Paul Tyson and Taulia Tagovailoa (younger brother of Tua) made some good progress but they have a long way. Last season, Jones had moments where he was progressing. He did, however, only accounted for five completions out of 13 attempts for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Consistency An Issue At Middle Linebackers
The inside linebacker positions might be the biggest defensive area for the Tide to address this offseason. Mack Wilson left a huge hole in the defense when he announced his early departure for the 2019 NFL Draft. In the scrimmage last Saturday, Saban knew he had plenty of confidence in Dylan Moses, who was the team’s leading tackler last season with 86 total tackles. There are reserves fighting for the starting role next to Moses and none of them are leading after Saturday. Senior Joshua McMillion, sophomore Markail Benton, sophomore Jaylen Moody, true freshman Shane Lee, and sophomore Ale Kaho all were inconsistent and struggled in the scrimmage. Saban said the middle linebackers made too many mental mistakes and neither are truly keeping the starting spot. McMillion was the linebacker practicing with the first group defense with Moses.
Two Freshman Offensive Linemen Playing with the First Group
Losing two great offensive linemen like center Ross Pierschbacher and tackle Jonah Williams will take some restructuring for Alabama. The Tide took their first step when they moved Alex Leatherwood from right guard to his natural left tackle position. The biggest surprise is two true freshmen starting in the interior offensive line. 6-7, 360-pound Evan Neal was stationed at left guard and Emil Ekiyor Jr. was positioned at right guard. Playing these two freshman offensive linemen immediately gives the indication that they are way more ahead of schedule to make an impact for the Tide’s offense. This also shows that Deonte Brown is not a prime candidate to start after his suspension and struggles. Brown started a few games last season while filling in for the injured Lester Cotton. The Tide might have one of the youngest offensive line unit in the nation by starting three sophomores and two freshmen.
Kicking and Punting Game is Ahead of Schedule
The kicking game has been the most inconsistent part of the Crimson Tide since the 2011 season. Last season was no different as the Tide relied less on the kicking game as they attempted more fourth downs. Joseph Bulovas was for 14-for-18 (77.8%) from field goals and 75-for-81 (92.6%) from extra points. This offseason, the Tide recruited the top-ranked kicker in the nation in Will Reichard from Hoover High School. Coach Saban mentioned the kicking is much better and is more on track than last year. Reichard started off strong in Saturday’s scrimmage as he looks to make the kicking game a more relevant option for the Crimson Tide. Coach Saban also praised the punting game of sophomore Skyler Delong in the scrimmage. Last year, Delong had moments where he stood out but he also competed with senior Mike Bernier throughout the season.
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