Alabama was not a complete team by any stretch of analysis, especially in wake of injuries that took place during the season. In the Title game Alabama played with what they had against a more complete team in Clemson and had the lead with two minutes to play but in the end Watson is just that good and with the help of some illegal but uncalled pick plays he took the trophy. In final analysis the season ending injury to Eddie Jackson may have really cost the Tide this year.
What Alabama had going for it in the game:
Alabama had the best front seven in college football. They tortured, chased, battered and bruised DeShawn Watson. For the first quarter of the game Watson was so disoriented he was rendered useless. Finally he got on track and though the beating continued he put on one of the most memerable performances you are ever going to see from a college quarterback. Eventually Alabama’s lack of quality defensive depth however caught up with them and Watson was too much.
The reason they wore down was having virtually no DL depth and the other two phases of the Alabama game were a train wreck. Alabama never found anyone to return kicks after Eddie Jackson went down. The run game was finally in gear with Bo Scarboro and had he not been injured in the game at least one of the drives in the second half would have likely yielded points or at least taken more time off the clock. Clemson needed every second to pull the victory so Alabama was literally one first down from putting this game away.
At defensive back Alabama has slipped back into the habit of not contesting receivers for the ball. Eddie Jackson was the best we had at this. Had he been there he could have perhaps gotten one or at least batted one down. This game was so close literally ONE batted down pass would have sunk Clemson. Jackson could have possibly made some hay with those short rugby punts as well, possibly taking one back.
I could go on with some more analsysis but I’m going to look forward to something that needs to be addressed. Alabama had a great defense this year, It has happened before with Saban that when he has a great defense he ends up coaching not to lose the game for the defense instead of coaching to win. In the end the irony is that coaching NOT to lose always leads to losing. Some examples:
Alabama’s freshman quarterback was a liability for sure and yes he could lose games by making mistakes, but by over-protecting him past the first few games not only did he fail to grow as a passer but Alabama’s steller receiving corps withered on the vine waiting for passes that would never come. When we finally needed them they were too rusty to do any good. If Hurts was the quarterback then they needed to have him run the whole offense. IF they lose they lose, better to lose early and get better every week and be ready for a championship opportunity than to see it end like this. Alabama coached the season not to lose.
The lack of agressiveness of the defensive backs was because they had been coached to just “contain”. In this game they could not contain Watson and a group of recievers who were on fire and determined to make every catch. To win that game you can’t play it safe you have to go for the pick at some point or another. Watson threw a lot of picks this year. Everyone else was going for it. Alabama played it too safe and lost. Coaching not to lose.
When Bo went down Alabama needed to give freshman Joshua Jacobs a chance to turn the game. Harris is a good back but not dynamic enough to make a game changing play. Only the freshman has shown that ability. But they probably felt he was a risk. They were coaching not to lose.
Alabama only got agressive at the end offensively and “shock” the result was a touchdown. What if they played that way the whole game? Perhaps Clemson would not have known what our plays were before we snapped the ball. They were coaching not to lose.
Some of this can be excused but all of it together is an Alabama team that felt like the trophy should fall into their hands rather than a team that had to rip it from Clemsons fingers. Clemson was the opposite, and they are the ones who get the parade now.
Moving forward Alabama will likely enter the 2017 season NOT ranked in the top 3 or possibly even the top 5. This will hopefully reset the coaching staff and players with the proper mind set that they need to go out there and take victory instead of just hoping it falls into your lap if they don’t screw up.
The lower ranking may depend on who opts to return for their senior season vs the NFL. No matter what Alabama loses their entire front seven except for DL Daron Payne. In the secondary they could have a veteran group. Some early draft projections put Marlon Humphrey in the first round but I can’t fathom why any NFL team would draft him in the first second or even third round. I like the kid but he’s not even our best corner and our secondary was a weakness this year.
Offensively I feel like the line will be “OK”. They have three returning starters and one part time starter returning and a stellar recruiting class that might provide help. I don’t know what we have at Wideout simply because they let the unit atrophy completely. I am not down on OC Steve Sarkesian. He had no chance in 8 days to put his stamp on the offense. When he had to score he did. Saban just needs to quit the conservative thinking and realize that in college football today to win championships, you have to score, you have to score a ton. That’s how Alabama won last year.
At running back I have not heard word on Bo Scarboro’s injury yet. Hopefully it’s not serious but he essentially was healthy for a grand total of 6 quarters all season long so our fears about him are now confirmed. Great talent, but fragile. Harris is good but not great. Jacobs has shown flashes of brilliance but we will have to wait and see how the off season treats him. BJ Emmons has a serious injury that could be career threatening so I don’t know his status for next season. Alabama singned the nations #1 recruit in running back Najee Harris, a 6′ 2″ 222 bruiser from California. He has a clean up surgery for a small knee issue but that should not effect his status for spring. He is already on campus. RB Brian Robinson should be in by summer, he is another Tuscaloosa kid and may be a good one as well. Alabama needs to find a bell cow or two in this group that is durable enough. If Bo is healthy he’s as good as it gets but we can’t bank on his health going forward.
And most of all If Hurts is the guy, then he needs to throw the ball. We won’t have a good enough defense to stop everyone next year, we may never see a defense that can do that witht he current rules as they are. If that be the case then we have to score. To become proficient at that you have to take risks. Saban has shown the ability to adapt before. I still feel like he’s got anther few championships left in him. He always seems at his best, when times are at their worst.