A new start to the offseason is something that every team needs as they prepare for the 2019 season. The Alabama Crimson Tide are trying to solve many issues they encountered since losing to the Clemson Tigers in the 2019 National Championship game, 44-16. Last Saturday, the Tide participated in the 2019 Crimson and White A-Day game in front of numerous fans and media. The Crimson Tide knew they had to solidify their first-team units, but they also needed to find reliable backups. They found those two objectives and more in the A-Day game as Alabama displayed their many great years of recruiting, plus building these players into one scrimmage. For the fans, this was an opportunity for them to see star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and the elite passing offense. In the end, the White Squad, composed of the first-team defense and the second-offense, beat the Crimson Squad 31-17.
Tagovailoa Showing More Hunger
This past season was fantastic for the first-year starter in Tagovailoa, but he knew it wasn’t enough. Despite the high-velocity of stats and accomplishment through his hard work, he came in second in the 2018 Heisman Trophy voting to Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and the Tide came in second place in the rankings after their loss to Clemson. This was a quiet offseason for Tagovailoa as he had to endure the failures of last season. Even though he was quiet, his training wasn’t. This A-Day scrimmage game showed the mental transformation that he encountered throughout the offseason so far. Tagovailoa looked hungrier and more aggressive in his throws, runs, and decision-making. He was always the quarterback to make incredible deep throws, connect in tight windows, or even made runs when he needed to. This scrimmage, he did so with a little more aggression.
In the first half, he made great throws in tight windows to his receivers. Tagovailoa showed urgency and aggressiveness in his throws, so much to the point he made it difficult for some of his receivers. While fans loved his energy level, he and head coach Nick Saban know that he must calm down. He finished by passing for 265 yards, one touchdown, and one interception on 19 completions out of 37 attempts. He was impatient in his throws at the beginning of the fourth quarter as he was trying to get the big-play touchdowns. Another huge part of his lower completion percentage is the stellar play of the defensive backs.
Defensive Backs Strength of the Tide’s Defense
It is not an easy task to slow down the 2018 HeismanTrophy runner-up in Tagovailoa. The Tide’s defense ran a majority of their plays from the nickel package of five defensive backs on the field. This was the first game back for senior cornerback Trevon Diggs after breaking his foot midway through the 2018 regular season. Diggs played consistently in tight coverage and shut down the Tide’s high-power passing game. He was consistently covering wide receiver Henry Ruggs III, who accounted for only one reception for eight yards. Diggs accounted for a pass breakup and an interception on an excellent read from Tagovailoa in the fourth quarter. Junior safety Xavier McKinney and sophomore cornerback Patrick Surtain II were also excellent in locking down the Tide’s passing offense.
With star nickel Shyheim Carter participating in a black non-contact jersey with the second-team defense, there needed to be a defender to step up. Sophomore Josh Jobe was the next man up for the Crimson Tide defense. Jobe proved to show heavy improvement from the previous season as a freshman. Jobe accounted for three separate pass breakups against the first-team offense. When Carter comes back from injury, Jobe will go back to being a reserve cornerback. More importantly, he has a great future with the Tide this season as the first defensive back on deck for an injured play and he will be a starter in the future.
Miller Forristall Off to a Hot Start for The Tide
Redshirt junior Miller Forristall played in multiple games last season but did not account for a reception. The Crimson squad selected Forristall as one of the three captains for the game. He accounted for three receptions for 32 yards, all in the first half of the scrimmage. He displayed a tremendous ability to create separation from the opposing defenders and ran outstanding routes. With a great slate of first-team deep receivers, the Crimson Tide needed a target for Tagovailoa in shorter yardage situations. Forristall shows the ability to be a starter for the Crimson Tide while providing input in the passing game and in the running game as a blocker.
Crimson Tide Have Another Set of Young Receivers in Their Arsenal
The first-team offense was being covered efficiently by a more experienced defensive back unit than last year. The second-team offense was providing more impact in the passing game than the first group. Two freshman wide receivers in Xavier Williams and John Metchie continue to standout this spring. Williams accounted for two receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown as he displayed his incredible speed. Metchie was the A-Day game MVP as he was all over the field in his route running. He grabbed all five of his targets for 133 yards. Metchie will be a potentially underrated playmaker under a large star receiver group. Williams can be a dangerous versatile receiver and return specialist.
Alabama Going Forward
While Coach Saban said that his team played very well, he acknowledged that there is a lot to improve on. The Tide did not utilize too many special plays on offense or initiate any special blitzes or coverages on defense. The remainder of the spring and all throughout summer will be the beginning of a playbook session where the young or inexperienced players, who did well in this scrimmage, will be separated based on knowledge of the plays. The new offensive and defensive coordinators for the Tide will continue to provide more changes to the team as fall gets closer. Overall, the run game needs to be more efficient, players need to get healthier, and players and coaches will need to continue to build each other up for the upcoming 2019 season.
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