Those are the famous words uttered by astronaut Jack Swigert when Apollo 13’s ship nearly blew itself up mid way to the moon. This is the situation Nick Saban finds himself in with the 2019 Crimson Tide. Gone are both starting inside linebackers before the season first snap, The guys recruited behind them did not get the job done so now we have to true freshman playing, one of which played DB in high school. At outside linebacker senior Terrell Lewis continues to struggle in his attempted return to football after his blown knee last season. Thus far he’s been limited at best. The guy who played in his place this spring Ayabi Anoma , quit the team just before fall practice. He’s been a head case since he came on and finally just removed himself. Leaving only senior Anfernee Jennings who is more or less the only healthy experienced linebacker we have.
On the defensive line Alabama is already down one starter when LaBryan Ray re injured the foot that he injured this off season. He may not return or could possibly return late in the season if things go well. The freshman DJ Dale is banged up as well but may return this week in some capacity. The situation at defensive line is lest desperate as Red shirt freshman Christian Barmore and Sophomore Phil Mathis appear to be playing well and true freshman Byron Young has played some on early game downs meaning he must be doing ok.
For those counting that’s two five star can’t miss recruits that have just walked away from Alabama in the last 6 months. We really got to consider character a little more when signing these kids.
Thankfully the secondary and offense have stayed mostly injury free and Alabama adds to their offensive line depth this week when Deonte Brown returns from suspension. I do not expect him to immediately get his starting job back but expect to see him enter the game late if we are wanting to milk the clock. Run blocking is his forte.
So far what we’ve seen is that the defense will play well for a bit an then make a mistake and essentially let them get to the redzone one a single play. So much of this defense is based off being in the right place and when it goes wrong it can go really wrong. Playing less talented schools with less talented coaches are one thing. But as we enter the SEC these issues are going to get exploited. I’d like to believe that somehow it will all be ok but that’s just not realistic. the SEC is a whole different animal that beating up on the likes of Southern Mississippi.
Offensively Steve Sarkisian continues to add pieces week by week giving them more to think about. The run game was anemic earlier but is starting to round out with Najee Harris getting the first 100 yard game we have seen since Damien Harris did it against LSU last year. In fact his 107 yard performance was the only 100+ yard rushing day a back had in all of 2018 so this has been an ongoing problems for a good while. Najee’s day was actually a bit stunted because on the play where he fumbled, then scooped it up and had his best run of the day that actually counted as a 2 yard loss and a fumble recovery for all the positive yards. Basically we would love to see more of this against better competition this week.
Alabama has struggled with tight end pass blocking with none of the guys we have being any good at it. Last week we saw them insert backup lineman Kendall Randolph as a tight in on short yardage downs. He is 6′ 5″ 296 lbs and is definitely more capable of sticking some pads than the relatively light weight tight ends we currently have. Look to see more of him in that roll as we move forward.
On the Heisman watch there are other players who will get a look but the QB’s widely lead the race. With everyone playing the easy part of the schedule a shakedown will clearly happen but unfortunately for Tua he is the most likely candidate to be shaken off the list. Clemson has already played all the good teams until they reach the playoff. Though Trevor Laurence isn’t passing for many yards even against crap, he is the least productive of the candidates but he did beat Alabama and that’s really all you need on your resume. Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts is feasting on the weak big 12 defenses and essentially just needs to have a good showing against Texas and not get hurt to waltz into New York at the end of the season. His biggest issue is simply the fact that they stretched to give Murray the second Oklahoma QB in a row to keep it from Tua, are they willing to stretch that to three seasons? A better option might be to give to Justin Fields at Ohio State, their schedule doesn’t include any top 10 talent and so many voters in the north east are going to default to any Ohio State player. LSU Quarterback Joe Burrow is throwing for tons of yards but has the same problem Tua has, he’s in the SEC so he will see a number of top 10 teams and his numbers like Tua’s will likely drop back. If either He or Tua were able to go through the season and keep their numbers up they might have a shot but the winner of the Alabama-LSU game will knock the loser out permanently. There is also Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm but like the other SEC quarterbacks they are at a disadvantage and the Georgia offense is geared much like Alabama’s offenses pre Kiffen so he can win every week without putting up big numbers. The Heisman trophy has become a bit of a joke with so much regional favoritism and using stats as a measuring stick without any context. Nothing short of them changing the process will return some legitimacy to the trophy. I’m predicting Justin Fields if he stays healthy will get it, he just has to have a decent showing against Wisconsin and Penn State and whoever they play in the conference title and he will have all the boxes checked, not Tua, check, not from the SEC, check, not from Oklahoma… again, check, Looks purty in pictures, check, gobs of passing yards and TD’s, check, from Ohio State, double check.