Nick Saban enters his 12th season at the helm of the University of Alabama football program featuring a 132-20 record in his first 11 seasons, an 87% winning percentage, and 5 national championships. The expectations never change in Tuscaloosa, so the goals this year are the SEC Championship, the College Football and playoff and ultimately the national championship.
The material is in place once again. The quarterback battle has taken center stage as fall camp has commenced. Jalen Hurts (6'2", 218) returns for his junior season and has a 26-2 record over the last 2 seasons, but struggled late in the season last year and was relieved in the second half of the national championship game by true freshman Tua Tagovailoa (6'1", 218) who came in and promptly completed 14-of-24 passes for 164 yards, 3 TDs and 1 interception, with his final TD toss the game winner to DeVonta Smith for 41 yards in a spectacular, surreal moment which secured the Crimson Tide its 5th national title under Saban, a 26-23 overtime victory over the Georgia Bulldogs.
So Jalen and Tua will battle it out for the starting signal caller spot. I like Tua personally. Jalen has a lot of trouble throwing it downfield and Tua can wing it and has good mobility. Maybe not as good as Jalen's, but pretty darn good. But it has to be decided in fall camp and could go on into the first game or two of the season. S is not showing his hand right now. He doesn't seem to know which guy will be his starting quarterback will be at this point. I'll take Tua to win the job. If he does, Jalen has said he will stay and finish his degree, and will be ready if Tua falters or gets injured. But they've gotta compete, so it will be an interesting August, and at some point S might explode with the press when they bombard him with quarterback questions. Redshirt freshman Mac Jones played a lot in the spring game and looks like a pretty competent quarterback as well and can certainly win with the talent around him.
And the talent on offense is off the charts great. Damien Harris returns for his senior season after rushing for 1,000 yards last year on the number, with 11 TDs and 7.4 yards per carry. Damien will set his sights on a 3rd straight 1,000 yard season. The 5'11", 213 pounder made a surprising, but very intelligent and mature decision to return for his final season. He's a really bright guy and wants a degree and his NFL prospects will skyrocket with another terrific season. He also wants to win another national championship. That's always an underrated factor in players returning. They want national championships. And at Alabama, they get'em. So Damien is setting himself up for a very bright future this season and in the forthcoming years.
And the backfield is loaded. The great Najee Harris returns for his sophomore campaign. The 6'2", 230 pound Sherman Tank rushed for 374 yards and 3 TDs last season and averaged 6.1 yards per carry. Josh Jacobs (5'10", 216) and Brian Robinson (6'1", 221) can start for a lot of SEC teams and most all teams throughout the country. They are studs as well.
Wide receiver will be manney by talented sophomores Jerry Jeudy (6'1", 218), maybe the next Calvin Ridley, Henry Ruggs III (6'0", 183), who had 12 receptions last season 6 of them for TDs, and DeVonta Smith (6'1", 173), who not only caught the game winner versus Georgia, but also caught the game winner at Mississippi State in November. Tight end looks well manned with Hale Hentges (6'5", 249), and Irv Smith (6'4", 241), who looks O.J. Howard like.
The offensive line is massive and loaded. Ross Pierschbacher (6'4", 301) returns for his senior season at center, and will be flanked by guards Lester Cotton (6'4", 326m senior), Jedrick Willis (6'5", 313, sophomore), left tackle Jonah Williams (6'5", 301) and junior right tackle Matt Womack (6'7", 327). There is good depth too, led by stud Alex Leatherwood, a 6'6", 304 left tackle) who could crack the starting lineup by game 1 or 2.
On defense, there were some mainstays lost in the greats Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison, Ra'shaan Evans and De'Shawn Hand among others, and there was a tough injury when linebacker Terrell Lewis was lost for a good period of time this season with a torn ACL in his knee. But the outstanding Mack Wilson (6'2", 237, junior) and the awesome Dylan Moses (6'3", 232, soph) return lead the way on defense at linebacker. Christian Miller (6'4", 244, senior) and Anfernee Jennings (6'3", 262, junior) are highly capable players at outside linebackers. All these guys were high 4 star and 5 star recruits and should have terrific seasons. Just need to stay healthy. And the defensive line should be pretty spectacular led by defensive end Raekwon Davis (6'4", 240, junior) who posted 8 1/2 sacks last season. Huge defensive end Isaiah Buggs (6'5", 287, senior) will be very disruptive to opposing offenses. In the middle at defensive tackle, Quinnen Williams (6'4", 299, Soph) will start. There is good depth up front too with a lot of young guys behind these starters who are talented and hungry.
The secondary will be revamped with some new faces, but talented ones nonetheless. Junior strong safety Delonte Thompson (6'2", 194 junior) has good experience and talent, and cornerback Trevon Diggs (6'2", 195, junior) is highly talented and can be a playmaker, ball hawk type. They're both vets for the most part. Junior college transfer Saivion Smith (6'1", 198) is a talent, so he should fit in well, and free safety Xavier McKinney (6'1", 197) will get the first shot there.
The kicking game duties will belong to Joseph Bulovas, punter will be Skyer Delong, a freshman, and punt returners look to be Diggs, Ruggs III and Jared Mayden. Kickoff return guys will be Diggs, Ruggs, and Xavien Marks.
The 2018 recruiting class brought in 3, 5 stars in defensive end Eyabi Anoma (6'5", 235, Baltimore, MD), wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (5'10", 165, Houston, TX) and defensive back Patrick Surtain (6'2", 183, Plantation, FL). A lot of 4 stars as well. Not the top rated class like S usually gets, but a top 7 class and the 2019 class is currently Number 1 in the country, including 2 quarterbacks, 4 stars Taulia Tagovailoa (Tua's younger brother, Thompson High School, B'ham) and Paul Tyson (Bear Bryant's great grandson, Hewitt-Trussville High School B'ham) in the hopper. So it keeps on cookin in T-town.
There are new coordinators on offense with Mike Locksley taking over from Brian Daboll, who took the job as the Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator. Locksley will be the offensive coordinator and primary play caller, but look for associate head coach/quarterbacks coach Dan Enos to play a big role in the offense. Enos was an excellent offensive coordinator at Arkansas. He's creative and calls a lot of explosive, take it to the house plays. Tosh Lupoi, an excellent recruiter and high motor coach, will take over from now Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt as defensive coordinator. Look for Tosh to get some help from Pete Golding, an experienced hand, who is co defensive coordinator and has an excellent resume from UT San Antonio and other places. S has a lot of trust in Golding. Of course S will play a big role in the defense as well.
The Tide open with the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday, Sept. 1st in Camping World Stadium in Orlando, the Camping World Kickoff Game, at 7 PM CT on ABC. Bobby Petrino will have to replace Lamar Jackson, so the Cardinals may have their problems with the Crimson Tide. Arkansas State comes to Tuscaloosa on Saturday, Sept. 8th for a 2:30 PM CT game on ESPN2. Then the Tide goes to Ole Miss on Saturday, Sept. 15th for a 6 PM CT kickoff on ESPN. After that it's versus Texas A&M at Bryant Denny, Sat. Sept. 22nd, versus Louisiana Ragin Cajuns, Saturday, Sept. 29th, @Arkansas, Sat. Oct. 6th, versus Missouri, Saturday, Oct. 13th, @ Tennessee, Saturday, Oct. 20th, off Oct. 27th, @ LSU Saturday, Nov. 3rd, Mississippi State at home, Sat. Nov. 10th, The Citadel at home, Sat. Nov. 17th, then the Iron Bowl versus the Auburn Tigers, Saturday, Nov. 24th, with what could have a lot riding on it.
The SEC Championship game is Saturday, Dec. 1st @ Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta at 3 PM CT on CBS.
If the playoff happens, which there is always a good reason to believe the Tide will be there come postseason time, the playoff games will be held at the Cotton Bowl and the Orange Bowl this year on December 29th, a Saturday. The games will commence at 3 PM and 7 PM CT. Which one comes first will be determined come Selection Sunday, the day after the conference championship games are decided.
The National Championship game will take place at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, just south of San Francisco, on Monday, January 7th at 7 PM CT on ESPN. ESPN will also carry the playoff games.
So, it's getting close, kickoff is less than a month away and the expectations are always through the roof at the University and with great reason. This is the ultimate powerhouse in college football, and the playoffs and a national championship are in play every single year. With the talent coming back and coming in, the Crimson Tide will be the favorite to win it all for the 6th time under Nicholas Lou Saban Jr, who carries the torch in college football as quite possibly the greatest of all time.