Photo by Brandon Jones, TexAgs
Texas A&M Football

Crimson Tide seeking a tsunami of revenge after National Championship collapse

July 12, 2019

Facing Alabama is always a difficult task. Facing the Crimson Tide with a point to prove is intimidating.

Yet, that’s what Alabama opponents will have in store this football season. The Crimson Tide projects to be typically talented and deep, but this season the Tide will also be seeking redemption.

Of course, Alabama was embarrassed 44-16 by Clemson in the National Championship game last January. The Tide will undoubtedly approach this season as an opportunity for retribution.

It will seek that retribution with a Heisman contender at quarterback, perhaps the nation’s best group of receivers, a highly-regarded running back and a defense that figures to be typically powerful. Some early NFL mock drafts list as many as eight Alabama players as potential first-round selections, which indicates this year’s team is one of coach Nick Saban’s most talented.

Nick Saban is widely considered the best coach in college football, but the gap is slowly closing.

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa passed for nearly 4,000 yards and 43 touchdowns in his first season as a starter. Receivers Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle, Henry Ruggs and Devonta Smith are all deep threats that combined for 38 touchdown catches.

At running back is a former five-star prospect who rushed for 783 yards in a backup role last season in Najee Harris. The defense features end Raekwon Davis, linebacker Dylan Moses, cornerback Trevon Doggs and outside linebacker TerrellLewis, who is coming back from a torn ACL, all of whom are projected as potential first-round picks.

Some project Tagovailoa as perhaps the first selection in the 2020 NFL draft after last year’s showing. Saban, though, said Tagovailoa needs to be even better.

“I think Tua has to challenge himself a little bit.  I think being hurt was an issue for him at the end of the season, and I think that he has to challenge himself to get back into great shape and overcome some of the things that happened toward the end of the year,” Saban said in May at the SEC Spring Meetings. “I think he should take the perception that he has a lot to prove relative to how we ended the season. I think our whole team fits into that category.”

Obviously, the season didn’t end the way Alabama has become accustomed.

But if Saban plugs a couple of holes along the offensive line and bolsters the secondary, Alabama could very well emerge as the best in college football again.

Alabama Crimson Tide

  • Coach: Nick Saban
  • 2018 record: 14-1, 8-0
  • Postseason results: Defeated Oklahoma 45-34 in the College Football Playoffs semifinals; Lost to Clemson 44-16 in the national championship game.

Returning starters (At least six starts)

Brandon Jones, TexAgs
Tua Tagovailoa returns as one of the SEC’s top quarterback and a potential first-round NFL draft pick.
  • Offense (6): WR Jerry Judy, G Alex Leatherwood, WR Henry Ruggs, WR Devonta Smith, QB Tua Tagovailoa, T Jedrick Willis.
  • Defense (7): DB Shyheim Carter, DE Raekwon Davis, CB Travon Diggs, LB Anfernee Jennings, LB Dylan Moses, SS Xavier McKinney, CB Patrick Surtain

Areas of strength: The passing game is spectacular. Tua Tagovailoa is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. There might not be a better group of receivers than returning starters Jerry Jeudy, Devonta Smith and Henry Ruggs. They combined for more than 2,300 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns in 2018. If that’s not enough, sophomore Jaylen Waddle may be the most explosive receiver on the roster.

Area of concern: Obviously, there are not many reasons to worry in Tuscaloosa. However, pass defense was something of an issue last season. The Crimson Tide was ranked 33rd in the nation in pass defense — a pedestrian ranking for Alabama. That was with All-American safety Deionte Thompson. Alabama allowed 956 passing yards in its last three games and was overwhelmed by Clemson’s freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the championship game.  Alabama won’t play any passers as accomplished as Lawrence unless it’s in the playoffs, so that’s not a major issue most of the season. However, it could be a problem against strong passers.

Top players

  • Tua Tagovailoa, QB: In his first season as a full-time starter, he threw 37 touchdown passes. Expect him to at least match that output. He’s a strong Heisman Trophy candidate.
  • Jerry Jeudy, WR: He hits for average and power. The top returning receiver in the SEC, Jeudy averaged a whopping 19.3 yards on 68 catches last season. Nobody with at least 30 receptions averaged more yards per catch. For more perspective, consider no other SEC receiver with at least 60 catches averaged more than 15.5 yards.
  • Dylan Moses, LB: An All-SEC selection a year ago, Moses led Alabama with 86 tackles. 

Biggest loss: Ten Alabama players were selected in the NFL draft, but none will be harder to replace than All-American defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. He was a disruptive force against the run and also provided a strong interior pass rush.

Impact newcomer: Newcomers typically must wait their turn to rise up Alabama’s depth chart, but don’t be surprised if five-star defensive end prospect Antonio Alfano makes an immediate impact.  The New Jersey product posted 28 tackles for loss as a high school senior.

2019 schedule

  • Aug. 31 vs. Duke at Atlanta
  • Sept. 7 vs. New Mexico State
  • Sept. 14 at South Carolina
  • Sept. 21 vs. Southern Mississippi
  • Sept. 28 vs. Ole Miss
  • Oct. 5 OPEN
  • Oct. 12 at Texas A&M
  • Oct. 19 vs. Tennessee
  • Oct. 26 vs. Arkansas
  • Nov. 2 OPEN
  • Nov. 9 vs. LSU
  • Nov. 16 at Mississippi State
  • Nov. 23 vs. Western Carolina
  • Nov. 30 at Auburn
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