The annual scheduled hoopla around recruiting has been messed up a little due to the Early Signing Period, so the All-America games don’t seem to have quite as much importance as they used to. Regardless, they’re a great chance to watch a slew of Alabama signees in action for the last time before they join the college ranks.
If you didn’t manage to get home and turn on ESPN by 5:00 CT, then I did the hard work for you and did my best to watch the play of all of the Tide recruits.
There were no offensive skill positions in this game, so I’ll start out with the offensive line. Amari Kight and Darrian Dalcourt both started for their team, while 5-star Evan Neal started for his.
I spoke at length after the AL-MS game at how much Amari Kight impressed me, and I came away even more so tonight. Whether it was pass protection or run blocking, Kight was perfect to my eyes for the first 3 quarters of the game before he finally got beat on an inside counter move (but the QB threw the ball before the rusher got there anyway). He absolutely dominated fellow Tide signee King Mwikuta any time the two lined up against each other. Kight displayed nimble footwork and could backpedal with speed rushers or turn defenders away from the ball in the run game.
Darrian Dalcourt played center, not guard, in this game. I didn’t notice any bad snaps, nor any obvious blocking fails, but centers are often hard to grade in that area, as they generally help with double team blocks, rather than going one on one. I did notice him knock Justin Eboigbe backwards and turn him around on two consecutive plays, though.
Evan Neal had a little more of an up and down game. On one hand, the mountainous left tackle had moments where he absolutely pancaked a dude in the open field or blew someone 4 yards backwards off the line of scrimmage. On the other, he was beat around the edge repeatedly by Kayveon Thibideoux. Which, granted, it was a tall task to block the #1 overall recruit for a large chunk of the game.
The Tide was much more represented on defense. Justin Eboigbe stood out the most to me. He played defensive tackle, but looked a little undersized there (but then again, so is Quinnen Williams). He was explosive off the snap and often blew into the backfield before the opposing guard could catch his balance. He also showed a good ability to take a block head on shed to either side just as a ball carrier tries to get through that hole. Twice I saw him flush a QB out of the pocket and chase him all the way to the sidelines for no gain. The only flaw I saw is that he has a tendency to turn his back in a weird half-spin if an offensive lineman manages to get a solid block on him.
King Mwikuta started at defensive end, but wound up not playing a whole lot or really making an impact. I never saw him do anything.
Kevin Harris is an undersized rush end who looks a lot like Tim Williams did as a freshman. Small and fast, but overpursues and is easily overpowered if a lineman gets their hands on him. The opposing offense often left him as the unblocked man in read option plays, and he generally did a good job of attacking the running back and either making the play from behind or forcing the QB to keep it.
Shane Lee played for most of the game at middle linebacker, and looks like the second coming of Reggie Ragland. He’s a built, compact dude that can really fill the holes and plug things up in the middle of the line. If the other team tried to run it up the gut, you could be sure he was going to be right in the thick of the carnage. He also showed good awareness in pass coverage and got a breakup early in the game. Also like Ragland, though, he lacks elite speed. When chasing someone to the sideline, he’d often have to run backwards and give up a few yards to get a safe angle. Even in shorter distance lateral tackles he still had to drop a little before making tackles or he wouldn’t be able to catch the ball carrier. He’ll never be a heat-seaking missile linebacker like Mack Wilson or Reuben Foster.
Jordan Battle played mostly deep centerfield at safety, and was never really challenged. He was a little late coming over to help his outside corner on a deep ball, but I think his defense played mostly cover 1 during the game, so that wasn’t necessarily his responsibility anyway. He came up and made a couple of tackles, but that was about it. He also dropped back to return a punt, but it wound up being a short punt that he never even had a chance to do anything with.
Brandon Turnage played outside corner back and all in all had a decent game. He wasn’t targeted too often, but had two plays that stood out to me. The first was on a double-reverse pass. He came off of a deep drop and quickly closed on the QB leaking out of the backfield and prevented the pass from getting thrown accurately to that QB. The other was on a deep bomb to the endzone. He stayed stride-for-stride with his receiver and then actually turned and located the ball while boxing out his receiver. It was perfect coverage, up until the receiver just out-jumped him and came down with the touchdown.
Christian Williams was supposedly in the game, but I never saw him. But camera angles are always difficult for watching defensive backs.
Kicker Will Reichard missed a field goal. Roll Tide I guess.