ALABAMA 2017 PREVIEW:

 

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Alabama
Sep 10, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) passes against Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Hilltoppers at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

ALABAMA 2017 PREVIEW:
Once again, Alabama has lost several key players. The most notable departures this time around are DE Jonathan Allen, ILB Reuben Foster, OLB Tim Williams, and CB Marlon Humphrey. Replacing studs like these has become routine for head coach Nick Saban though. He has been proving his dominance in recruiting for nearly a decade. His ability to reload at any position with another five star player at any point in the season has yet to be matched. This has been and will remain an integral part of ‘Bama’s success.

ALABAMA SCHEDULE HIGHLIGHTS:

Both Alabama and Florida State have plenty of talent returning on both sides of the ball. The Nick Saban vs Jimbo Fisher is as good of a coaching matchup as you can get in today’s college football. Fisher is an offensive guru who was arguably prevented from knocking off last season’s eventual national champion Clemson with one bad referee call. Saban is notorious for consistently producing nightmarish defenses. Bama’ QB Jalen Hurts and FSU QB Deondre Francois are both going into their 2nd season as starters. Hurts must take extra caution facing CB Tarvarus McFadden, rated on Matt Miller’s and Daniel Jeremiah’s top 5 players list, and S Derwin James, considered by most a top 3 defensive player in college football this year.

Alabama may face a very tough Florida State team week 1 of the season in Atlanta, but the matchups from week 2 to 4 present far less formidable opponents. Nevertheless, Saban is known to take every team very seriously. They’ll face Fresno State and Colorado State at home before going on the road to Vanderbilt.

Week 5 brings a game that most Alabama fans love to watch but also may secretly fear. That would be the Ole Miss Rebels coming to Tuscaloosa. One advantage the Tide will have on their side is home field. It also won’t hurt that they no longer have to face All-SEC QB Chad Kelly who put up 421 yards passing and 3 touchdowns in his last game he would face ‘Bama. Additionally, by that time in the season, Saban’s new starters should be up to speed on everything and playing to their potential.

Come Nov. 4th the LSU Tigers come to Tuscaloosa in yet another great rivalry will add another great game to the list. Alabama holds the upper hand due not only the fact LSU comes to Tuscaloosa but Alabama will be coming off of a bye week. As if Nick and Alabama needs an extra week to gameplan to beat LSU. Saban will also throw flame to the fire and use Derrius Juice words to light a fire under the Alabama defense. Juice, (LSU running back) went on record saying that Alabama was scared to play LSU and that every time that we were about to run Alabama would stack the box) Nov. 4th will be a very big game like always for the Tide. And Nick Saban as this game circled on his calendar.

PLAYERS TO WATCH ON DEFENSE:

Last year Alabama lead the nation in scoring defense with 13.0 points per game. The biggest returner on the defensive line is Da’Ron Payne who will be a monster piece on the Alabama’s defensive front. With Payne will be 5-Star DE Da’Shawn Hand who was sitting behind Jonathan Allen last season waiting for his opportunity. There’s no doubt Hand would have been a starter on almost any other team in the nation. Defensive lineman Raekwon Davis and Joshua Frazier are all very quality players that will be rotating in and out of the line-up. 

Inside linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton played along side Reuben Foster last season. He was one of the Tide’s top tacklers before being injured against the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship. His recovery has gone very well and he’s expected to to have zero restrictions at the start of the season.

Minkah Fitzpatrick will fill the CB Marlon Humphrey vacancy. Cornerback Anthony Averett had 8 pass deflections last year. He and safety Ronnie Harrison are both returning. Harrison will be asked to take on more of a leadership roll which he seems to have the tools to fit.

OFFENSE:

New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was brought in from the New England Patriots where he served as an assistant coach. Daboll begins with a luxury that previous OC Lane Kiffin did not. For the first time in a few years Alabama knows who it’s quarterback will be. Starting quarterback Jalen Hurts finished last season with 23 passing touchdowns and nearly a 63 percent completion percentage. Hurts did have some issues with holding onto the ball at some points in the season; still, Hurts ran for 950 yards and 13 touchdowns. He combined for over 3700 total yards and 36 touchdowns. Those numbers prove a remarkable season for just a 18 year old freshman. 

Running back Damien Harris is coming off of a season where he gained just over 1000 yards rushing. However, he must improve on getting in the end-zone as in 2016 he only crossed the goal line twice on the ground and twice in the air. The Crimson Tide do have a bruising threat at running back in Bo Scarbrough. A true workhorse, Bo was coming on strong late last season until sustaining a fracture in his lower leg in the National Championship game. For future durability, this kind of injury serves much better than torn ligaments so his recovery should be very strong. From week 10, Bo was averaging no less than 16 attempts a game with at least 5.3 yards per rush. In the last 3 games Bo totaled 364 yards rushing on 46 carries and 6 touchdowns.

Tight end O.J Howard and receiver ArDarius Stewart left for the NFL. This will create opportunity for wide receivers like Cam Sims and Robert Foster. Both are very raw talented players. 5-Star freshman  receiver Jerry Jeudy is someone who is a must watch. He left many impressed in Alabama’s spring game.

RECRUITING:

Alabama was rewarded with the number 1 recruiting class for 2017. They had the number 1 recruiting class in 2016 and the 2nd best in 2015. The Tide secured recruits like RB Najee Harris, the top ranked in the nation, 5-Star OT Alex Leatherwood, top ranked OLB Dylan Moses. Other 5-Star recruits including WR Jerry Jeudy and LB LaBryan Ray also highlight this year’s class.

STATS:

87th in total passing offense (210 yds/game)

12th in total rushing offense (245 yds/game)

1st against the run (64 yds/game)

Ranked 24th against the pass allowing just 197 yards per game.

Ranked 2nd in total defense, tied w/Michigan, (261 yds/game)

34th in total offense (455 yds/game)

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