Two scrimmages down, one more to go for the Alabama Crimson Tide football program for the 2019 College Football season. The Tide will be showcasing their team for the first time to fans and the media this Saturday in the 2019 annual Alabama A-Day Game. Fans and the media have many questions on the sustainability on the football program after their dominating 44-16 loss to the Clemson Tigers in the 2019 National Championship. This essentially created two coexisting dynasties in the sport of College Football. Head coach Nick Saban is looking to provide answers when the team scrimmages in Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday.
Most of these questions are in the terms of the Alabama Crimson Tide solving their position battles left by graduates and departing players from last season. Most of the positions are not threatening to the 2019 season, however, they must be addressed before the fall season. These are position battles that can be solved after the Tide’s A-Day game or they could continue throughout the summer.
This is a position that the Crimson Tide have been dealing with since Mack Wilson departed early for the 2019 NFL Draft. In between the two scrimmages, senior Joshua McMillion has been more efficient in his tackling and avoiding mental errors. The spot is still up for grabs for a player like Markail Benton, Ben Thomas, or Ale Kaho. While McMillion has shown signs of improvement, it is not the only reason he is participating with the first-team. Coach Saban has stated throughout the spring that the second-string unit has shown too many mental errors and lack of consistent tackling.
While McMillon is further boosting his projection as the starting middle linebacker with Dylan Moses, it is not good in terms of depth. Sophomore linebackers Benton and Jaylen Moody have been showing the incapability to be consistent enough to start. True freshman Shane Lee is not ready to make the strives in his first college football season. He can be a star but might redshirt this upcoming season. The lack of consistent tackling, talking poor chasing angles, and mental errors can give up the easiest yards. This scrimmage can be big for McMillion to show his reliability as a first-team defender for the Crimson Tide. As a team, the Tide must be able to find some other players that can play with consistency throughout the games and season.
While the Tide look to solve questions on their middle linebackers that have depth, they are examining tight ends that don’t have experience. This offseason, the Tide lost Irv Smith Jr. early to the 2019 NFL Draft and Hale Hentges as he graduated. While redshirt junior Miller Forristall did have some playing time last season, he did not account for any statistics in terms of receptions or yards. He has been participating with the first-team offense throughout this spring. New offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has reiterated that he will not make too many changes in the philosophy of the Tide last season. This includes the offensive schemes where they have distinctive tight end packages. Alabama will often use a tight end at the line of scrimmage or as a slot receiver. They also use a tight end at a fullback-type position.
Other players that are looking to make the transition to the first-team tight end are Major Tennison, Kendrick James, and redshirt freshman Cameron Latu. The Tide have moved Latu from his usual outside linebacker position to the tight end position. The Tide have encountered success from moving players to other positions in the past couple of seasons. With the Tide returning their top four wideouts from last season, there will be a need to utilize a more distinctive passing offense. This is a criticism that Sarkisian has received while he was the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons. Alabama can find their most efficient tight end or multiple playmakers in the third scrimmage of the spring this Saturday.
This offseason is not the race for the starting quarterback position. That belongs to Tua Tagovailoa, who will have a chip on his shoulder throughout the 2019 season. Throughout the spring, redshirt sophomore Mac Jones has been improving his lead to take the title of the backup quarterback. Jones has improved his passing capabilities and has been improving on the field overall. His stock rising has been the result of the two four-star quarterback recruits in Taulia Tagovailoa and Paul Tyson struggling. In the past scrimmage, the younger Tagovailoa accounted for too many turnovers and Tyson did not make the correct mental steps to get better. This quarterback performance on Saturday will be a big indication of where the Tide turn to for a backup.
In one of the more surprising position battles late in spring, the starting nose guard position battle has heated up. Through the two scrimmages in this spring, sophomore Phidarian Mathis has been with the first-team defense. Within this past week, freshman D.J. Dale has been given the first-team reps to keep the competition fresh. Dale has similar traits and attributes as former first-round pick Da’Ron Payne. Of the position battles this Saturday, this may be one of the only battles to set between two worthy competitors. Neither player has experience with the Tide, so it will be difficult to determine which will be worthy of the starting role.
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