Cleat Geeks

2018 Alabama Crimson Tide A-Day Spring Game Preview

As Spring comes to a close, so too will Spring Training for all College Football teams looking to get better for the upcoming 2018 season. For the reigning National Champions in the Alabama Crimson Tide, they will be starting over just like every other team in the College Football Nation. There are positions where the Tide are continuing to address before their summer starts. This Saturday will be fans and the nation’s first look into the 2018 Alabama Crimson Tide team as they look to finalize the problems and issues to address before the summer. This is the Head Coach Nick Saban’s 12th Spring Game Scrimmage or their “A-Day” and there will be many storylines heading into his game.

 

Despite the huge offseason storylines, the game’s Quarterback battle won’t be between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa

Ever since backup Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa took over the Crimson Tide in the 2nd half of the 2018 National Championship game and helped Alabama beat the Georgia Bulldogs, fans were excited for a Quarterback position battle between Jalen Hurts and Tua. Hurts is a calm but consistent dual-threat Quarterback, who will beat opponents with his legs and evaluate matchups while Tua is an explosive playmaker, who will beat opponents with his strong arm and his highly competitive spirit. Early in the spring training practices, Tua suffered a broken bone in his throwing hand required surgery to quickly recover. Last Saturday, Tua suffered a setback while making adjustments to his throwing and recovering process. Despite the huge fan appeal for a Quarterback position battle between Tua and Jalen, Tua must sit out in order to properly recover in time for summer.

Image result for jalen hurts tua tagovailoa

Photo by; CBSSports.com

This leaves QB Jalen Hurts as the leading player to start at Quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2018. While Jalen has the edge right now, he cannot slow down in the Quarterback position battle because he has more to prove than ever before. Despite help leading Alabama to a 27-2 record the two seasons including a National Championship appearance and a Championship win last season, the pressure is high for Jalen Hurts. Fans and highly prestigious sports analysts have seen the multiple limitations in the Jalen’s passing game. ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit (once a huge fan of Jalen as a Quarterback) now questions the effective of Jalen’s passing abilities and how explosive the Tide’s offense can be with him under Center.

Despite the many criticisms of his passing game in addition to the competition of Tua next to him, Jalen Hurts is looking to prove he is the starting Quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide. This spring, Head Coach Nick Saban has heavily praised Jalen’s progression and his attributes as a passer. In 2016, Jalen Hurts made strides as a passer under Lane Kiffin’s offense by passing for 2,780 yards on 240 completions (out of 382 attempts) for 23 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Last season, under Brian Daboll’s multiple offensive schemes with RPO (run-pass-option), Jalen was not as efficient as a passer as the season before by passing for 2,081 yards on 154 completions (out of 254 attempts) for 17 touchdowns and 1 interception. He more efficient as a leader and maintaining the gameplan and key mismatches against the opposing teams. He could not do it against the Georgia Bulldogs in the 1st half in the National Championship and that is why he was replaced.

With Mike Locksley taking over as Offensive Coordinator, Jalen has a better chance with a more explosive offensive scheme where he can progress as a passer and still do well in matchup schemes. Watch for Jalen to show his progress as a passer as he is looking to show that he can air it more consistent deep down the field. Instead of competing against Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen will be competing in the A-Day game against former 4-star QB Mac Jones.

 

Nick Saban and the Tide need to reload completely at Defensive Backs

Image result for shyheim carter alabama

Photo by; 247Sports.com

One of the biggest attributes of a Nick Saban team is the high-talent level and the reliability of the Defensive Backs. There have been many Defensive Backs from Alabama and Nick Saban’s defense where they have gone to on to the NFL and succeed very well. This offseason, the Tide have to replace all 5 starting Defensive Backs from last season who have either departed early for the 2018 NFL Draft or have graduated. None of them have had played a high amount of snaps last season for the Crimson Tide as they were all reserves or some projected to start have not played at all. With Tosh Lupoi taking over the main Defensive Coordinator position after being Co-DC with Jeremy Pruitt (now the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers), the Tide may stick to a 3-4 defense with only 4 Defensive Backs.

 

This may also be unlikely due to Saban’s preference of a Star on the field, which is a DB who is an all-around playmaking through coverages and versatility. For the past two seasons, that player has been Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is now expected to be a top ten pick this week in the 2018 NFL Draft. Former 4-star recruit in junior Shyheim Carter has been filling in the position through the spring and look to prove his versatility and athletic ability to fans this Saturday. Carter and other DB’s have only played in garbage time where the games were already decided. Former 4-star recruit from Texas in redshirt junior in Deionte Thompson has emerged as a leader for the young and inexperienced Tide Defensive Backs. Thompson is the most experienced player in the Tide’s Defensive Backs as last season he accounted for 25 total tackles (17th highest on the team), 18 solo tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 pass deflection and an interception. The Tide’s main return specialist in junior Trevor Diggs (younger brother of Minnesota Vikings WR Stefon Diggs) is finally expected to start at the main Cornerback spot after being a reserve. Look for more young players, possibly true freshman, to make the push for the other 2 Defensive Back positions.

 

The Offensive Line is looking to restructure through the end of spring

It isn’t the lack of talent that the Tide are having to deal with involving the Offensive Line but more so what to do with them. The Tide have a lot of talent at the Tackle position starting Jonah Williams, who was voted as 2017 All-SEC and 2016 2nd team All-SEC in his first two years at Alabama. Matt Womack was also a consistent starter for the Tide last season at the opposite Tackle. Alex Leatherwood filled in the injured Tackles last season and often played more consistent than some of the starting Interior Offensive Line last season.

Image result for ross pierschbacher alabama

Photo by; USA Today Sports

Senior Guard Ross Pierschbacher will likely fill in the starting Center position for the departed Bradley Bozeman, leaving another Guard position open with J.C. Hassenauer also gone. Lester Cotton had his ups and downs as a starter for the Tide last season but is looking to play more consistent. Sophomore Deonte Brown is also looking to get a starting Guard position along with senior Josh Casher, who found himself in and out of the starting lineup. The Crimson Tide are not looking for week-by-week starting Guards, they are looking for consistent starters who they can rely on. Leatherwood is a great Tackle but has been playing some interior to test out to see if he is athletic enough to make pulls and speed in the interior without his height creating a disadvantage.

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