Alabama vs Kent State – W2W4 (What 2 Watch 4)
It’s not Christmas time in Hollis Queens (shout out to Run DMC – the first main stream rap artists) but it certainly is the holiday season in Tuscaloosa. After a long off season of street agents, lying coaches, lying players, tree saboteurs and menswear fashionistas, it’s finally time to emerge from the murky sewage that college football has become so that we can finally enjoy the gifts of the games people play. The offseason is “da Devil” but thank God for “Foosball!!!”
The first gift we’ll open up this season is Kent State. Kent State showing up on your home field is just the perfect gift for the guy who has everything, you know? You may recall that Nick played at Kent State in 1970 & 1971 as a DB where Sling Blade recalled that “Saban weren’t no bigger than a squirrel.” Nick transitioned from the bug (DB) to the windshield in 1972 when he started his coaching career at Kent State as a GA. Saban left Kent State in ’77 and the rest is coaching history. Anyone know Kent State’s mascot??? No, they aren’t the Kent State Appetizers, but that’s a good guess! Actually they are the Golden Flashes – no word yet on whether or not their mascot is Betty White in a trench coat. I will say that the Golden Flashes are appropriately named because I suspect that’s what will happen when Donte Hightower vaporizes the first Kent State foolio with the ball. I think you’ll see a pair of cleats and then a Golden FLASH. Some re-assembly required…
QB – Yeah, I know, it will be difficult to judge anything that happens on Saturday. Any good plays the QBs make will be followed with “but it’s Kent State.” Any bad plays will be followed with “BUT IT’S KENT STATE!” So, our two QB beauties will be in the eyes of 102K beholders, along with a bunch of folks who are screaming at their TVs. Be prepared that no matter how they perform, it will likely be unsatisfying. With that being said, here’s what I’ll be looking for.
First, comfort. I’m looking for the kid who hits that fifth step of a five step drop and he’s in his recliner, just watching things unfold before his eyes. I’m looking for the kid who will stay in the pocket and move WITHIN the pocket to deliver a throw downfield. The one who bails is the one who fails in my book.
Second, decision making. Let’s face it, this Bama club is LOADED. The only thing we have to fear is fear “itself” and, in this case, the “itself” is turnovers. You know, as in “Bama shot itself in the foot” or “Bama kept itself out of the championship game with that turnover.” You avoid a pick, you avoid a Nick busting your tailpipe on national television. The one who makes the right decisions and doesn’t force the ball into coverage will be the one who Saban will entrust with the season.
Lastly, accuracy. Not turning the ball over is NOT enough with this group. Our full time QB will have to be the one who can deliver on time passes to open receivers. We don’t need the near sighted gunslinger from “Unforgiven” slinging passes and shouting “did we get ‘em?” I’m looking for someone to be deadly accurate on the easy throws. Accurate isn’t just getting the ball to the receiver, either. Look for the QB who leads the WR to the correct shoulder to avoid a big hit or to influence them into the open field. Last comment from me – go Phillip Sims!
RB – Ok, the first thing that comes to mind here is for Trent Richardson to leave the game healthy. That would pretty much complete my day as a beaming success. Seeing Trent out there in the second quarter will make me not pass Go, not collect $200 and go straight to the medicine cabinet for some Maalox. Actually, my doctor says Mylanta but that’s neither here nor there.
Outside of Trent taking his shoulder pads off at the end of the 1st quarter, if you’ve read the stuff I’ve sent out, you know who I’m looking forward to seeing! BEAST MODE!!!!! Jalston is Australian for BEAST – I just KNOW it. And you, gentle reader, should know that the first time Jalston Fowler creates a Golden Flash by smashing thru a defender I’ll be streaking down the streets of New York screaming THE BEAST! THE BEAST! Women will understand…
As you scrape that image from your mind, know also that when #6 is in the game, I’ll be jacked! I’m really looking forward to seeing Blake Sims threaten the edge as a RB and as a QB. I really think this kid is going to bring the sizzle to my nizzles this season…(can’t wait to see if I’m right!)
WR – This one is simple. I’m just looking for the dudes that will catch the ball. No dropsies, fellers. Even if it’s a proven WR like Marquis Maze or …. well, Maze … then I’ll be happy. I simply don’t care who catches the ball so long as they just catch it. I will be interested to see which WRs are targeted the most. During the summer 7 on 7s, QBs develop a “go to” receiver in the same way the frat boys have “go to” kegs and “go to” girls on a slow night. This, of course, will change with the QB, too. Who will AJ lock in on? Who will Sims lock in on and target most often? This is intriguing.
White is right! Well, he might. I’m looking for DeAndrew White to catch a couple of bubble screens and electrify the crowd. We shall see but the buzz is strong with this one…
TE – Eh. What do you write about here? When one of the TEs is Smelley, you know it stinks to spend time writing about them. I read where Michael Williams wants to be a vertical threat. 6-6, 270. Vertical. Yeah, OK. I still can’t believe we never lined Andre Smith up as a TE and sent him (with his shirt ON) on a fly pattern, either. Honestly, the only thing I’ll be looking for out of this position is Brian Vogler to see if he blocked at all. Outside of that, you know what you are getting with this crew.
OL – There have been many comparisons of the 2011 team are to the 2009 team. Remember 2009? What did they do well? Oh yeah, hammer that rock. It was all predicated on a big, nasty, efficient OL that could move mountains. Last year, Ga State stood us up at the line of scrimmage. Oh how the mighty had fallen last season. Yes, DJ Fluker got hurt and was never the same. Yes, Barrett Jones got hurt as well. No excuses this year boys. If Bama fancies itself to be the team we all think it SHOULD be, then it starts and ends with this group. Anthony Steen, Chance Warmack and Cyrus Kouandjio have so much to prove so keep a keen eye on these three. Keep an especially watchful eye on Cyrus the virus. I want to see WHEN he is inserted in the lineup. If he comes in as a part of wholesale second string changes on the OL, then his immediate future is as a second string LT. If he’s inserted into the 1s and BJ moves to guard to make room, then all this talk about Cyrus being a 1st string left tackle as a true frosh is legit. IF he can do this, our line will make you remember 2008 and 2009.
Defensive Line – I see this group as an assembly line of pain. I’m trying to confirm a rumor that instead of listing a running back for this game, Kent State is listing that position as “Dead Man Walking”. Remember the list of guys I talked about in the season preview that are vying for playing time here? First string used to be a given – Stinson, Chapman and Square. Now they are talking about Williams on one side with Dial on the other since they are both showing tremendous progress. Brandon Lewis is another guy that’s shone up during practices. Jeoffrey Pagan is emerging as a big time threat at DE. We haven’t even mentioned Billingsley, Gentry (a try hard kid who probably is the most talented pass rusher we have), Fanning, Ivory, Pettway and Ming. I am looking forward to seeing wave after wave of big, athletic grim reapers forge their way into the backfield, making little one yard gains become one mile victories for Kent State.
In particular, I’ll be watching Dial (294), Williams (319), Lewis (288)and Ivory (308). I’ve heard good things about all of them so I can’t wait to see if it’s fact or fiction. Honestly, though, those are some BIG bodies and that doesn’t even count Chapman (310) or Square (285). Remember, they aren’t just big – they know how to use it, too.
Linebackers – I’ll be interested to see how much we get to play our base group (3-4) versus how much we play nickel. I’m really hoping the fearsome foursome of Upshaw, Hightower, Johnson and Harris can take the field a few times just to see the sheer athleticism that, if this was a night game, opponents would call Fright Night. But, I suspect we’ll see Hightower and Mosley at LB most of the time as we’ll be in nickel a bunch. Too bad.
I think we know what we’ve got with the first group (plus Mosley), though I would like to get a large dosage of Jerrell Harris just for giggles. Beyond this group, I’m really looking forward to seeing Trey DePriest. This kid is the real deal and may be the most talented LB on the team. Allow that to sink in for a moment. THE most TALENTED LB on the team. If I’m lyin, I’m dyin – he’ll be #33 and, as the poet Saliva says, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please would you bring your attention to me? For a feast for your eyes to see – an explosion of catastrophe!” I’m guessing an “explosion of catastrophe” is how they came up with the nickname for Kent State…
I’ll watch for Adrian Hubbard (42) and Xzavier Dickson (47) as well. These gents will be coming off the edge when Upshaw is resting and this is the primo Jack position in Nick’s D. What does the future hold? Well, Hubbard and Dickson (my personal fave) will likely determine it.
Secondary – As deep and talented as Bama’s D is, they should really call this unit the Primary instead of the secondary. As I’ve told you before, between McShay and Kiper, three of Alabama’s secondary members are predicted for the first round of next year’s NFL draft (Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and Robert Lester). Now factor in that they are saying DeQuan Menzie is the best corner on the team and you have one scary good secondary. The kid (Milliner) who started and was arguably our best corner last year is running second team. Phelon Jones is making plays in practice, too, as a senior. Wow.
What to watch for? Picks, Sticks (big hits) and Flicks (deflections). Honestly, the only thing I’ll be watching for is blown assignments b/c that was a big time problem last season. My guess is that since this is a veteran group now, you’ll see a lot fewer of those. If you see a Golden Flash that’s wide open, that’s likely a blown assignment. If the Flash is surrounded, that will be a Flash in the pan and his goose will be smoked. That’s what I’m looking for.
W2W4 Special Teams
First, a shout out to Carson Tinker. I can’t imagine what he’s gone thru. It’s a true testament to him that he’s even able to function normally, let alone resume his snapper’s role after the tornado tragedy. He should get a standing ovation when he takes the field.
Foster the People tell us about getting Pumped Up Kicks. Well, I usually get pretty pumped when our middle linebacker looking kicker trots out and takes a whack at a kickoff. I always watch for the depth of the Cade Foster Kos – the goal line is my measuring stick. I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t drive more than 50% of the kicks to the goal line and beyond. Field goals are easy to measure – don’t miss and you grade out well. Punters are only slightly more difficult as you simply factor in hang time with the yardage. My guess is that “Howie Do It” Mandell will be the punter. I hear it’s not gone well so that will be of interest. I do wonder, too, if Jay Williams will get a chance – that might be interesting.
On the returns, I’m looking forward to seeing the young kids get a chance but I’m guessing they will only have one opportunity at the beginning of the game for a kickoff return. Savor that moment b/c it’s unlikely to happen again (this means Kent State won’t score for those of you who are scoring at home…or if you’re alone). On the punt returns, I think we have an idea of what Maze can do so I’m looking for someone else to get a chance back there. I do miss the days of Javy so maybe someone can show out Saturday and make us remember what it’s like to bust a punt return to the house.
W2W4 In Other Games
Just a quickie here as I wrap this up. I’m excited to see these games:
- LSU vs Oregon – I’m picking Oregon and have been before Jordan Jefferson tried out for kicker by using a Marine’s head as a ball. This could get ugly.
- Boise vs Georgia – Sorry, not buying UGA this season. I like Boise in this one.
- BYU vs Ole Miss – SEC loses this one in a close one.
- A&M vs SMU – I suspect they’ll be an SEC team by the time Sunday gets here so it will be good to see what our new Western brother has to offer.
Have fun and enjoy the game! ROLL TIDE!