Brooks Koepka, Crimson Tide 2019

Brooks Koepka sank his 6 foot par putt on 18 after scrambling out of a downhill lie in the rough just above the sand trap at Bethpage Black on his second shot. Vintage Koepka. He’s the best frontrunner in sports. He entered Sunday’s 101st PGA Championship with a 7 shot lead, but showed some signs of shakiness, however he maintained his poise and mental toughness to shoot a hard earned 74, 4 over, on a highly formidable course with winds gusting up to 30, and capturing the Wanamaker Trophy by 2 shots over Dustin Johnson, who made a charge on the backside but bogeyed 16 and 17 to fall short, though Koepka still had to earn it on 18.

Koepka looked to be cruising with a 7 shot lead as he made the turn, but 4 straight bogeys on 11-14, alongside a Johnson birdie on 14, cut the lead to 2. Johnson’s bogey on 17 extended Kopeka’s lead to 3 before Koepka bogeyed the par 3, 17th, to only have a 2 shot lead heading into 18. Koepka summoned his iron like mentality on 18 after driving it in the rough just above the trap with just a 2 shot lead. The shot looked close to impossible, but he got it out in the fairway, 110 yards from the green. From there he hit a lob wedge to 6 feet which clinched it. He made it even more emphatic by sinking the putt and captured his 4th major in 8 attempts in less than 2 years. Pretty phenomenal stuff. He now joins elite company that has won 4 or more majors prior to their 30th birthday led by Tiger Woods with 9. Koepka is 29 and won’t turn 30 till May, 2020, so he’ll have 3 more attempts to add to that historic number. He’ll play the U.S, Open, June 16th-19th, @ Pebble Beach, the Open Championship @ Royal Portrush, Northern Ireland July 18th-21st, and the Masters next April. This is an astonishing resume Koepka is putting together. He has paid his dues too, playing on the European Tour for 3 years to learn how to play those courses as well before moving on to the PGA Tour. The guy is so mentally tough and driven. Nothing seems to faze him. He thrives on pressure.

We’re seeing some historically superb golf being played by one Brooks Koepka. It’s fun to have a dominant player on tour right now and Koepka is just that.

Alabama football 2019

Nick Saban made several changes to his coaching staff after last season including hiring Steve Sarkisian as offensive coordinator, promoting Pete Golding to defensive coordinator, hiring Kyle Flood (Offensive line), Brian Baker (Associate head coach, defensive line), Charles Huff (Associate head coach, running backs), Charles Kelly (Associate head coach, safeties), Sal Sunseri (outside linebackers) and Holmon Wiggins (wide receivers). Saban went for a more veteran staff that can still recruit, but also has more experience in coaching practices and games. I like the move. I thought Tosh Lupoi was in over his head last year as was Mike Locksley. It worked most of the season because of Saban and the talent on the field, but imploded in the national championship game versus Clemson, a 44-16 loss.

While the younger coaching staff wasn’t as effective with their coaching, they did help secure the No.1 recruiting class in the country for 2019. And with the talent returning led by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, this team looks destined to be elite once again. The 6’1”, 218 pound Tagovailoa led the country in passing touchdowns with 43, and quarterback efficiency at 199.5. He was 5th in the country with 3,966 yards passing and 6th with a 69% completion rate. And he wants to do better than that this year.

And he has a wealth of weapons around him to help him do that. Wide receiver is beyond loaded. Jerry Jeudy, the Biletnikoff Award winner last year (best wide receiver in the country), caught 68 passes for 1,315 yards and 14 TDs. He’s back for his junior season as are Henry Ruggs III (46-741 11 TDs), and Devonta Smith (42-693, 6 TDs), along with electric sophomore Jaylen Waddle (45-848, 7 TDs). And the Tide has some younger studs in Slade Bolden (redshirt freshman) Tyrell Shavers (sophomore), and stud 4 star freshmen Xavier Williams and John Metchie. Metchie had a superb r spring game catching 5 passes for 133 yards.

Taulia Tagovailoa, Tua’s younger brother, showed signs of being a terrific quarterback for the Crimson Tide in the future and a capable backup this coming season during the spring game. He zipped a 30 yard TD pass to Waddle late in the spring game that was very impressive. He’s going to be an elite signal caller in Tuscaloosa in the coming years. He’ll battle it out with Mac Jones for the backup spot. Jones had another impressive spring game, going 19 for 33 for 271 yards 2 TDs and 1 int. Early enrollee Paul Tyson will be working to get in the rotation this season, but may be redshirted for further development.

The backfield looks strong with Najee Harris and Brian Robinson leading the group. Najee along with Raekwon Davis are guys Saban would like to see become leaders of this team. Najee was a 5 star, but has yet to reach his potential. The Crimson Tide are hoping that Najee can realize that unlimited potential. Robinson had a pretty strong spring game, and looks like a great compliment to Harris. 5 star freshman Trey Sanders and 4 star freshman Keilan Roninson are coming in. Sanders is 6’1”, 205 and Robinson is 5’9”, 180. Of course, Najee (6’2”, 227) and Robinson (6’1”, 226) are horses. Chadarius Townsend (6’0”, 194) is listed as a wide receiver, but got some carries in the spring game and did well. He could be another weapon in the running game.

The offensive line is extra talented and physically imposing. Alex Leatherwood (6’6”, 310) looks to be the man at left tackle. He’s another player with unlimited potential. Emil Ekiyor (6’3”, 338) and Deonte Brown (6’4”, 342) will battle for one guard spot, Chris Owens (6’3”, 315) looks to be the anchor at center, while the trustworthy and talented Matt Womack (6’7”, 325) and Jedrick Willis Jr. (6’5”, 316) will handle right guard and right tackle respectively. And there are plenty of talented players with great size in the second and third groups that will be developed

The highly reliable Miller Forristall will be the starter at tight end most likely. Forristall, a 6’5”, 234 pound redshirt junior, has good hands and is a solid blocker. The Tide has always liked to use the tight end and have had elite players at that position, so he’ll be valuable. And there is Cameron Latu, who will join him in the starting lineup and some solid backups led by Kedrick James (6’5” 260) who made a very fine 34 yard catch and run for a TD in the spring game. He’s impressive.

Defense

The defense has some new faces who are also some great youthful talents along with some stud experienced players.

The defensive line will be anchored by Raekwon Davis (6’7” 309) who aims to fill the tremendously large shoes of Quinnen Williams, who was the 3rd pick in the draft by the New York Jets and a dominant player posting 19 1/2 tackles for loss and 8 sacks in 2018. Williams was an unblockable force for the Crimson Tide, and frankly, I thought he was the best player in the draft this year, better than Kyler Murray, who was the top pick by the Arizona Cardinals and Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, who was the second player selected by the 49ers. Bosa played only 3 games and once he got hurt, called it a college career. Quinnen will be the best pro of the three. He will have a multiple Pro Bowl career if he stays healthy, which he seems to do. Offensive tackle Jonah Williams was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals as the 11th pick of the first round, Josh Jacobs went No.24 in the first round to the Raiders. Irv Smith went in the second round to the Minnesota Vikings. Damien Harris went in the third round to the Patriots. Christian Miller was a fourth round pick by the Carolina Panthers. Deionte Thompson (Arizona), Riss Piersbacher (Redskins) and Mack Wilson (Browns) went in the fifth round, and Isaiah Buggs (Steelers) went in the 6th round.

Davis looks like he is the next guy in line and he’s already somewhat established himself as that kind of player. He posted just 5 1/2 TFLs and 1 1/2 sacks, but he’s poised to breakout this season. Joining Davis up front is the talented LaBryan Ray (6’5”, 285) who posted 6 TFLs and 2 1/2 sacks last season. He’s another stellar d linemen on this unit. DJ Dale is a 6’3”, 314 pound freshman defensive tackle who was a force in the spring game posting 2 sacks and emerging as a major disruptor to the offense. They’ll be backed up by sophomore Phidarian Mathis (6’4”, 317), also a major force in the spring game, 5 star freshman Antonio Alfano (6’4”, 288), redshirt freshman Christian Barmore (6’4”, 310), senior Tevita Musika (6’1”, 342), redshirt freshman Stephon Wynn Jr (6’4”, 295) and high 4 star freshman Justin Eboigbe (6’5”, 283). There are some new faces in this group, but Davis and Ray will lead and there is great depth and talent.

At linebacker, junior Dylan Moses (6’3”, 235) will be the leader of the linebacking corps, and, along with Davis, the leader of the defense. He may be the ultimate leader. Moses can potentially be a dominating player and a strong leader on this Crimson Tide team. He led the team with 86 tackles last season and posted 10 TFLs and 3 1/2 sacks. Joshua McMillon will join him in the starting lineup in the middle of the defense. McMillan is 6’3”, 237 and is looking to break out this season as well. Shane Lee, s 6’0”, 235 pound 6.0, 4 star freshman, was a major force in the middle during the spring game and had a terrific interception of a Mac Jones pass that he returned for 20 yards. He’s a superb athlete. Jaylen Moody is a 6’2”, 225 sophomore who intercepted a Paul Tyson pass and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown. He’s an incredible athlete as well. Markail Benton (6’2”, 235) and Ale Kaho (6’1”, 224) are talented backups also.

At outside linebacker, the great Anfernee Jennings returns. Jennings is a 6’3”, 259 redshirt senior who posted 13 TFLs last season along with 5 1/2 sacks. He’s an enforcer on the edge as is Terrell Lewis (6’5”, 252) a talent who missed all of last season with an injury, but, like Jennings, is an NFL talent. Lewis and Jennings need to stay healthy, and if they do, they’ll excel. Eyabi Anoma (6’5”, 252), the talented Christopher Allen (6’4”, 250), 4 star freshman Kevin Harris II (6’4”, 218) and Ben Davis 6’4”, 238) will be key backups. Davis is kind of a mystery man. He was a 5 star out of high school but has never materialized. I’m sure Pete Golding is hoping he can get more out of this talented player this summer and into the season. Hoping senior Joe Donald (6’3”, 216) can get a shot at some point. Joe 4 was a standout at Mountain Brook High School in football, basketball and baseball and was a warrior linebacker. He was scout team player of the week 3 times last season, so if he gets a shot, he’ll produce. I’m sure his dad and mom would like that.

The secondary has exceptional talent. Trevon Diggs was hurt all of last season, but returns for his junior season. Diggs is a major talent at corner. He had an interception at the end of the spring game and he could be a 5 to 6 interception player this coming season. Patrick Surtain II and Shyheim Carter will man the corner and star positions. Both are extremely talented and experienced. Look for Josh Jobe to make an impact at corner. He had an awesome spring game. At safety, Xavier McKinney and Jared Mayden look to be the starters. McKinney and Mayden both have great talent. Mayden had a pick in the spring game and looks awesome. McKinney is a returning starter and should be set for a huge season. Daniel Wright and Eddie Smith will back them up. Jordan Battle, a 6.0, 4 star, and 5.9, 4 star, Demarcco Hellams are coming this summer.

Special Teams

Alabama’s Achilles Heel has been at kicker for several years now, but S went out and got super high school kicker Will Reichard from Hoover. Reichard will battle with Joseph Bulovas for the job. Skyler Long will punt, Jaylen Waddle will try to add to his already illustrious resume as a punt returner this season, and Ruggs III and Brian Robinson will return kicks. The holders are Mac Jones and Tua. The long snapper is Thomas Fletcher.

Schedule

The Crimson Tide opens the season Saturday August 31st versus Duke at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. David Cutcliffe has done an amazing job at Duke, winning 6 to 7 games even 8 every year and winning or being competitive in bowl games, but this one could get out of hand in the second half.

New Mexico State at home on Saturday, September 7th, then @ South Carolina on Saturday, 9-14 in what could be a tricky one, though the Gamecocks will be trying to get a quarterback ready as Jake Bentley has graduated. Then Southern Miss comes to Bryant-Denny on Saturday, Sept. 21. Ole Miss visits Tuscaloosa Saturday, Sept. 28th. Then an open week, followed by a key trip to College Station on Saturday, Oct. 12th to face Texas A&M, which will be charged up in Jimbo Fisher’s second season. Then Tennessee comes to Tuscaloosa on Saturday, Oct. 19th. Arkansas follows the Vols into Bryant-Denny on Saturday, Oct. 26th, then an off week, followed by a visit to Tuscaloosa by the LSU Tigers on Saturday, November 9th. Then @ Miss,. State on Saturday Nov. 16th, Western Carolina comes to town on Saturday, 11-23, then @ the Auburn Tigers, Saturday, November 30th. The SEC Championship game is Saturday, December 7th at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Assessment of the season

I see Nick Saban having the material to win his 6th national championship at Alabama. The last 5 have come in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2017. The potential is there barring any colossal injuries, namely Tua, though he’s got some redeeming to do after the SEC and national championship performances last season. I see him answering the bell. This team has the tools to win it all once again.