•  Register
21

2014 Fierce 40 Previews: #4 Alabama

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 21, 2014

#4 Alabama Crimson Tide

 

2013 Recap:

“The Return” or “Kick Six” derailed a chance at a three peat for Alabama. Chris Davis dashed the dreams of Crimson Tide fans everywhere as Auburn emerged victorious and the letdown carried over to the Sugar Bowl as the usually soundly prepared Tide got crushed by the Sooners of Oklahoma, 45-31.

 

Coaching:

Nick Saban is regarded as the top coach in the land and his amazing 79-15 record show that last year's 11-2 record was his “average” finish. There is nothing else that needs to be said other than seeing how Lane Kiffin fits in as the offensive coordinator.

 

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

The biggest question mark going into the season is obviously replacing four-year starter A.J. McCarron at quarterback. Jacon Coker has transferred from Florida State, where he would have been the backup to Jameis Winston, to be the new Tide starter. Coker is a very highly touted quarterback and many believe he will step right in and this offense won't miss a beat. What makes things easier for Coker is that he has so many weapons around him, so it would be hard for him to fail outright. If Coker does falter, senior Blake Sims will be ready. Sims started his career as a running back so running is his forte and he could bring a new wrinkle to the offense. Expect to see Sims in certain formations and situations throughout the season.

T.J. Yeldon gets to tote the ball in what may be the nation's deepest and most talented backfield. Yeldon is a 1st round prospect who could easily declare this year as a junior, and he catches the ball very well out of the backfield. Backups Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry made the most of their chances last season as they combined for 1,076 yards and 11 touchdowns on just 127 carries. Of the three ball carriers Yeldon had the lowest YPC at a measly 6.0. The offensive line is not quite as dominant as a season ago but expect the balance on offense to continue with a superior running game.

Best Draft Prospect: T.J. Yeldon RB 1st Round 2016 (likely to declare for 2015).

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Even with a new quarterback the future is bright for this season and beyond for wide receiver Amari Cooper. Cooper is a junior who, like running back Yeldon, projects as a 1st round pick and he could be the first wide receiver off the board if he declares after this season.  Cooper posted 736 yards and averaged over 16 YPC. His hands have failed him on a few occasions but the raw talent is just so abundant and has been since the day he first stepped onto the field at Alabama. DeAndrew White is a starter as well and as a senior he is also coming off a season where he also averaged over 16 YPC and posted 4 touchdowns much like Cooper. Then you have Christian Jones, who as a senior is an invaluable weapon catching the ball and is one of the best return men in America.

Just when you think having three stud receivers was enough you have to worry about O.J. Howard at tight end. The talented sophomore posted only 14 catches a season ago but at close to 20 yards per catch he was able to flash his big play ability. There are just so many weapons in the passing game that it makes covering this offense very hard.  It's hard to believe that Alabama was 17th in offensive scoring last season. With all these weapons Alabama should have been a top ten team in this category and they should land there this season.

Best Draft Prospect: Amari Cooper WR 1st Round 2016 (Likely to declare for 2015).

 

Offensive Line:

We only get to see two offensive linemen returning as starters from last season. Arie Kouandijo is in the mix at left guard after spending time as a starter but struggling with his play and with nagging injuries. Senior Austin Shepherd looks to be the best prospect at this time carrying a 4th round grade at the right tackle position.The big news could be the arrival of left tackle Cam Robinson as a freshman, who the Tide are excited about his prospects as there is 1st round talk about this player already and he has yet to hit the field in a regular season game. Senior Leon Brown will be in to replace Anthony Steen after Steen left for the NFL and was the emotional leader along the line. Alabama only allowed 17 sacks last season but they only generated a very low 22 for themselves, Alabama wants to see that number rise while keeping the sacks allowed number relatively the same or even lower.

Best Draft Prospect: Austin Shepherd OT 4th Round 2015.

 

 

Defense

Defensive Line:

The defensive line is stacked as usual but it's youngster A'Shawn Robinson that is the focal point. Robinson had 5.5 sacks as a freshman and that actually led the very deep Tide since they only generated 22 sacks as we chronicled above, which is a very low total. Robinson is not just a one-trick pony that can rush the passer, as he is a great talent stopping the run. Jarran Reed will start at the other end position in the Crimson Tide 3-4 alignment. Brandon Ivory is a returning starter at defenisve tackle but we see an awful lot of Darren Lake. In fact, Lake is a better prospect and could even declare after this season and be a 2nd or 3rd round draft pick. Jonathan Allen is a player that turned a lot of heads in limited time last season and we could see the sophomore crack the starting lineup from time to time. It's a great line that is very deep, but aside from Robinson, may be devoid of true star talent and filled with simply solid players.

Best Draft Prospect: A'Shawn Robinson DE 1st Round 2017 (Likely to declare for 2016).

 

Linebackers:

The linebackers are always stout for Alabama and this class is no different, as Alabama is led by a pair of players that likely both would have been drafted had they declared for the draft a season ago. Trey DePriest and Xzavier Dickson are both 3rd round prospects for this draft as seniors and they lead the group. Reuben Foster will be stepping in to replace C.J. Mosley, who was a mainstay for Alabama. Foster saw action in 9 games last season and made 12 tackles with the defense and special teams. Denzell Duvall made 5 tackles for a loss last season and 3 sacks, and he will likely start as the fourth linebacker along the outside. Ryan Anderson and Dillon Lee will be there to provide depth and in the unfortunate circumstance that an injury arises. The backups at Alabama seem very comfortable playing the outside and the inside, so depth will not be a concern.

Best Draft Prospect: Trey DePriest LB 3rd Round 2015.

 

Secondary:

Landon Collins is the only returning starter to the secondary but in Collins you may have the best safety in the country. That was something the Crimson Tide had at the last draft with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix who wound up being the second overall safety off the board. Collins outplayed Clinton-Dix a season ago and the junior looks to be a first round pick if he does indeed declare after this season. Collins was second on the team in tackles behind the departed C.J. Mosley. He will be joined by Geno Smith at safety. Bradley Sylve and Cyrus Jones will be the new cornerbacks and this is the biggest area for concern on defense. Like many Alabama players these are not ordinary players with no starting experience. These two had 35 stops and a pick last season in limited action and both are ready to step in with a target on their back as perhaps the “weakness” on the team. Expect to see Maurice Smith play often as someone who can spell a starter or as the third corner in a number of formations. This is still a very good secondary and overall one of the best defenses around. Yet if there is a weaker area, it has to be at corner and the secondary as a whole.

Best Draft Prospect: Landon Collins S 1st Round 2016 (Likely to declare for 2015).

 

Special Teams:

Christion Jones will ensure that Alabama special teams is something that is not overlooked as he could be the top return man in the nation. Jones figures to still be a huge part of the special teams even while being a starting receiver. Adam Griffith is now the kicker, he and he alone, as Alabama went back and forth a season ago. The punter will be new and the coverage teams overall should be solid as they were a year ago, despite what happened with “Kick Six”.

Best Draft Prospect: Christion Jones WR/KR 4th Round 2015.

 

Schedule:

This looks to be an easier schedule then we normally see from Alabama and this comes at a good time as they break in a new quarterback. Traveling to Ole Miss in October could be interesting as Ole Miss is still fighting for relevance in the conference. November will see a road game against LSU and the Auburn game is in Tuscaloosa this season.

 

Draft Outlook:

This is Alabama, there are always draft prospects. The top guys will depend on who declares with the likes of T.J. Yeldon and Landon Collins looking like 1st rounders if they make the jump as juniors.

 

< Previous: #5 Oklahoma  Next: #3 Oregon >