Two games into the Alabama football, 2018 season, let’s review the strengths, the weaknesses and what to expect next for Crimson Tide.
Alabama football is assured of going into week three of the 2018 season ranked No. 1 in all the top polls. After two games and two lopsided wins, the most obvious signs point to another dominating season.
Don’t ask Nick Saban to make such an assumption. Saban’s leave nothing to chance philosophy allows no space for taking anything for granted. Last spring, throughout fall camp and continuing into the season, the term most used by Saban to describe the 2018 team has been a work-in-progress.
We had 10 guys on defense sign NFL contracts, and that’s hard to replace. But it’s going to create a lot of opportunity for young players who don’t have a lot of experience but are going to need to do a great job of developing and understanding and playing with confidence
Prior to the start of fall camp, Nick described the circumstances and the challenge.
Can we create enough depth with what we have? How do the young players respond? How do the returners take on leadership that are going to help the young players respond?
Two games with outcomes of 51-14 and 57-7 suggest Nick’s questions have been answered. Thinking that is a mistake. Alabama football has a long way to go defensively and in special teams. If Nick Saban used a grading scale similar to elementary school, most of his players would be defined as ‘needs improvement.’
As well as much of the offense has produced, the offensive line has not consistently dominated the line of scrimmage. The defensive miscues are all too evident. On Saturday a Sun Belt team (although a good one) gained 391 yards on the Tide. Missed extra points and weak punting make special teams suspect.
The offensive line has looked good and sometimes very good. Still too often, it has not been solid in pass protection. While only one play, getting stuffed on a 3rd-and-one, in the first quarter Saturday is troubling.
The offensive line is expected to improve its consistency with more game experience. Leatherwood and Wills need more experience as starters. For the rest, blocking in the Tua-inspired offense also requires fine tuning.
More troubling is the defensive line did not dominate Arkansas State. The d-line played well but a Sun Belt team caused Quinnen Williams and Raekwon Davis to have modest contributions. The Red Wolves rushed for 5.6 yards-per-carry. Depth could be the biggest problem with the d-line. Alabama football had to defend 82 snaps against ASU. The Tide played only six defensive linemen Saturday and one of them, Tevita Musika played only 17 snaps.
Factor in the linebacker lapses in pass coverage and the Tide’s front seven has been good but not great. There are future games when that front seven must perform at a higher level. Just like there are future games when pass protection will be paramount to winning. And there may be a future game that hinges on a field goal, even an extra point.
The flip side opinion of all this ‘nervous-nellie’ concern is driven by the skill players on offense. Tua is sensational. The running back group is the best in the nation. The wide receivers are superb and deep. Irv Smith Jr. at tight end is a great weapon. When Alabama football must out-score an opponent in a shootout, it looks more than up to the task.
Will there be a point this season when the Alabama Crimson Tide is not a work-in-progress? None of us know, including Nick Saban.
Alabama football is blessed with talent. In some areas, it is not blessed with experience and depth. The season is young. The Alabama Crimson Tide can be much better in November than it is now.