Alabama put themselves in a good position. Joseph Bulovas kicked a field goal to put them up 16-14, and the offense shook off an early mistake. It was the battle that everyone predicted until it wasn’t anymore. A true freshman quarterback torched the Crimson Tide defense, and Clemson dominated the national championship. So how does Alabama deal with being in unfamiliar territory? Lean on Nick Saban more than ever.
This was easily the worst loss in Saban’s tenure in Tuscaloosa, but it doesn’t mean the dynasty’s over. Coaching turnover isn’t new to this team as they’ve dealt with it for the last few seasons and returned to the national championship game. Saban knows how to get his staff to work together and produce an elite product. Until we see them struggle more consistently, expect them to be one of the best. Elite talent at multiple positions proves that there won’t be any letdown either.
Alabama’s defense finished in the Top 10 again last year and should do so in 2019. Quinnen Williams’ dominance left for the NFL, but Raekwon Davis and Anfernee Jennings return. Jennings got back to his dominant form last year, and Davis jumps out on t.v. even before the play starts. Terrell Lewis and Dylan Moses are extremely talented and now run the linebackers. On the back side, the secondary returns almost everyone. Xavier McKinney, Shyheim Carter, Trevon Diggs (brother of Minnesota Vikings receiver Stefon), and Patrick Surtain Jr. are back. If Alabama gets another shot at Clemson, this group must show they’ve improved after Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins torched them.
An explosive offense
Offensively, watch out. Tua Tagovailoa returns to lead this group and begins the year as one of the favorites for the Heisman Trophy. The biggest questions surrounding his game remain his health and performances in big games. Injuries forced him out of the SEC Championship Game last year, but luckily Jalen Hurts brought the team back to beat Georgia. Hurts transferred to Oklahoma, and the drop off after Tua is steep. Fortunately for him, he shouldn’t worry too much about getting hit a lot with the talent around him. It all starts at receiver.
Alabama returns the deepest receiver group in the country, and dangerous is almost not enough of a compliment. Biletnikoff winner Jerry Jeudy returns to lead this group, but teams can’t focus just on him. Henry Ruggs III, Jaylen Waddle, and Devonta Smith torched secondaries as well last year. They’re all back. Any one of them could lead the team in receiving and no one would be surprised. Ruggs III and Waddle allegedly ran 4.2 second 40’s in the offseason. All four excel with the ball in their hands, and give their quarterback opportunities to avoid unnecessary hits. If running the ball doesn’t work, this group can carry the load.
Najee Harris shared the backfield with both Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris last year. Now, it’s all his. Harris doesn’t possess the breakaway speed or quickness to elude tacklers, but he gains yards in many other ways. Everyone expects him to run people over, and that’s not surprising at his size (6’2″, 227 pounds). What fans don’t anticipate is his athleticism. Harris doesn’t hesitate to hurdle anyone, which always seems to amaze those watching. Someone his size shouldn’t be able to do that, and now he gets more opportunities to showcase his skills. Even with the Crimson Tide looking to replace multiple offensive lineman, their skill positions are loaded.
Is the Dynasty Over?
Alabama enters the 2019 season arguably as motivated as they’ve ever been. A 28 point loss on the biggest stage certainly will be waived in the players’ faces all offseason. Luckily for this team, the last time Alabama lost the national championship, they won it the next year. The loss last year certainly raised concerns about this team, but the sky isn’t falling. Nick Saban’s still here, there’s a ton of talent everywhere, and the Crimson Tide are ready to redeem themselves.