Five star early enrollee Tua Tagovailoa and sophomore Jalen Hurts had really good days at the spring game, a week ago Saturday. I like Tua a little better at this point.
Tua was 17-of-29 for 313 yards and 3 TDs against 1 int that outside linebacker Terrell Hall made a spectacular interception on. It was a swing pass intended for 5 star early enrollee Najee Harris, that Hall snatched out of the air and took to the house for 65 yards. Otherwise, Tua was phenomenal. S dialed up some more pressure and tighter coverages in the second half, so he had a little more trouble, but he's a fantastic player, and in my opinion, looks like a really assertive leader.
Tua threw TD passes to sophomore T.J. Simmons, a perfectly thrown 15 yarder that Simmons grabbed from defender Aaron Robinson's tight coverage, he hooked up with 5 star freshman and early enrollee Jerry Jeudy for 25 yards on a ball that ricocheted off Xavian Marks hands, fell right to Jeudy and Jeudy took it in 25 yards for the score. More on Jeudy in a minute. He's fantastic. Tua also connected with Jeudy on a 29 yard pass for a TD, after connecting with Jeudy for a 40 yard gain right before that.
Hurts connected with Calvin Ridley for a 37 yard score in the fourth quarter, and Robert Foster earlier in the first quarter for 65 yards. Jalen was 16-of-26 for 301 and 2 TDs and 1 interception by Trevon Diggs in the end zone that Diggs returned 24 yards.
Overall, good work by both signal callers, but I still see a real competition coming in August. I would say against Florida State, you would normally want to go with the experienced guy, but Tua looks like a better quarterback. He's exceptional, and just has it together, really mature and smart. I have him in the lead right now.
At wide receiver, with the defense playing basic with no sacking the quarterback and no different coverages, the receivers had good days as well. But they also looked outstanding. I can see why S and the coaches are so high on Jeudy. Wow. He's superb. He hauled in 5 catches for 134 yards and a pair of TDs. Ridley had a good day as well catching 4 passes for 102 yards and a TD. Robert Foster caught 2 passes for 115 yards and a TD. And Simmons had an excellent game with 6 receptions for 82 yards and a score.
Good stuff by the offense. Najee Harris looked good. He's going to play a lot this season. He's a tough, hard nosed runner who can break tackle after tackle. If Bo Scarbrough is healthy, and he looked like he was moving around well on the sideline, he and Najee will form a formidable one-two punch for the Tide running game, much like Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon did and Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson did and all the combinations S has had in Tuscaloosa.That's Alabama's style, two backs wearing you down. And Damien Harris is a good running back also. So is Joshua Jacobs. And there are a couple of others. So the stable is loaded at running back. Really want Scarbrough to be 100%. He is really electric running the football. He's like Henry in his running style, not as big, Henry is massive, but he's got more speed. He is lightning fast. Mix that in with Najee, who can run over people, through them, and past them, and you've got quite a combo at RB. Looking forward to seeing that. There's competition though. Damien, Josh and sophomore B.J. Emmons will compete, and they're all good players and Damien Harris has proven he's good, and Jacobs showed good talent last year as well, so the Tide is in good shape at RB.
Offensive line is very solid. That's how these guys were making so many big plays. Left guard Ross Pierschbacher is a senior, he's 6'4", 304, and the leader of the o line. Center Bradley Bozeman is back. He's 6'5", 311 and a leader up front as well and another physical mauler on up front. Heralded 2016 5 star Jonah Williams (6'5", 301), who started last year at right tackle, could be the dominant guy on the line that the draft guys really get excited about. He was at right tackle last year, but moved over to left tackle. Matt Womack is a massive 6'7", 316 and is a bull at tackle, and I look for 5 star early enrollee Alex Leatherwood (6'6", 327) to get a shot at tackle alsol. Right guard is a battle between Josh Casher, a 6'1", 300 pound junior, and sophomore Brandon Kennedy (6'3", 300). There's probably another guy in that mix. The depth looks younger, but loaded talent-wise.
Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who came down from the Patriots and who has extensive NFL experience along with working as a grad assistant under S in 1999 and '99, fits right in. He's already developed the quarterbacks well. Tua is outstanding and Jalen has really improved on his deep ball. The quarterback competition will be compelling this August.
Defensively, the Crimson Tide lost first round picks corner Marlon Humphrey (16th, Ravens) all world defensive end Jonathan Allen (17th, Redskins) and inside linebacker Reuben Foster (31st 49ers) along with second round picks d end Ryan Anderson (Skins), d tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (Giants) and third round pick d end Tim Williams (Ravens) Also, the great safety Eddie Jackson was picked in the fourth round by the Bears. On offense, O.J. Howard was picked by the Bucs in the first round at 19, Cam Robinson went in the second round to Jacksonville, and wide receiver ArDarius Stewart went in round 3 to the Jets. It's really astounding. And the defense accounted for 11 TDs last year, 6 on ints and 5 on fumble recoveries. The special teams added 4 more for 15 total.
But there are quite a few studs returning on this defense. Senior inside LB Shaun Dion Hamilton is a guy the Tide are hoping will come back from an injured knee suffered in the SEC Championship game, and build on the exceptional season he put together last year. He's a leader, too. Looks like Shaun Dion's moving well on the sideline also, so I know S and Pruitt are hopeful he'll be a go this August. But you throw in the awesome Rashaan Evans, 6'3", 234, at inside LB, emerging Christian Miller (6'4", 240), who's ready to take a step at becoming elite after sitting behind the older hosses in front of him, at outside linebacker. Mack Wilson (6'2", 231) is a sophomore who is emerging. He's going to be stellar also. Then you throw in Anfernee Jennings at dend/outside LB, kind of a Ryan Anderson-like player. Jennings is massive at 6'3", 265. Senior defensive end Da'Shawn Hand, 6'4", 282, could be an All American for S and Pruitt this season, and has potential to be a difference maker for this defense. On the back end, the versatile Minkah Fitzpatrick, another All-American who picked off 6 passes last year, is back for his junior season. Minkah is spectacular. Ronnie Harrison picked off 2 passes last year and he returns at safety. Tony Brown is back, and he's a headhunter. Anthony Averett, to me, is going to be a super corner this season. He's a little bit under the radar, but I like him. He's back. And there is good depth with some good young players behind these guys.
J.K. Scott is the best punter in the country. He averaged 47 yards last year. He kicked a couple of field goals in the spring game, including a 30 yarder to win it for the White team, 27-24. Kicking could go to a heralded, stud incoming freshman Joseph Bulovas. He's apparently pretty special, and that would be much needed for S, as he's ready to have a super reliable kicker. Xavian Marks and Trevon Diggs look like they could be pretty dynamic in the return game. Diggs could be a starter in the secondary before August is done, and the Tide takes the field Saturday, Sept. 2nd against Florida State. He's an outstanding athlete.
I like this team. I like them a lot. Can they win it all? Without a doubt. S has 4 national titles at Alabama in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2015, and this team has the makeup for a national championship team. The Florida State game is quite a test right out of the gate. That'll most likely be a Saturday Night game at 7 on ABC. I would bank on it. Then Bama faces Fresno State at home, Sept. 9, Colorado State at home, Sept. 16, @ Vanderbilt, Sept. 23, Ole Miss @ home, Sept. 30, A&M on the road Oct.7, Arkansas on the road Oct. 14, Tennessee @ home, Oct. 21, open Oct. 28th, LSU @ home Nov. 4, Mississippi State on the road Nov. 11, Mercer at home Nov. 18, then the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare on Saturday, Nov. 25.
It's challenging, but that's always the case in the SEC and that's how Saban and his players like it. They play for big games. The first one, Sept. 2, versus stud sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois and the FSU Seminoles have the Crimson Tide's complete attention.
S is 114-19 at Alabama, 86%, 4 national titles, and playoff appearances in all 3 years of the playoff. I expect to see the Crimson Tide back in the playoff with a good shot of winning it all again. Just loaded, and while the quarterback situation and developing the defense will be key areas of work this August, I see S and his coaches honing their team well for Sept. 2. This program is just built to win. Will have my preseason predictions in late August of who I like to win each Power 5 conference, which teams I like in the playoff and in the New Year's 6 bowls, and which teams advance to the national championship and who wins it all. I like Bama's chances. Will have a Florida State write up early next week.