Before any chef can unveil their latest and greatest meal, they must first sit down in their test kitchen and start experimenting with a bunch of flavors and ingredients before they eventually get it right. You know, Mr Milo didn’t just start cranking out his burger sauce after making one batch. No, he went thru the tried and true methods of adding and taking away ingredients and portions until he landed on the perfect sauce. Dreamland’s sauce “ain’t nuthin like ‘em nowhere” because Big John attempted more than just a few batches of goodness before he landed on a sauce so tasty you’d kill just to dip some white bread in it!
On Saturday, Bama fans got to witness the ultimate test kitchen for Doug Nussmeier, Kirby Smart and Nick Saban as they introduced a ton of new ingredients to the 2013 flavor of Alabama football. We saw a good portion of Grant Hill mixed with both the first and second team offensive line. We saw 15 different receivers haul in a pass (none of them were named Amari Cooper, by the way). There was a sprinkling of Dee Hart, Jalston Fowler, Altee Tenpenny and Derrick Henry in the backfield and they all were mixed with a heavy dose of backup quarterback Blake Sims.
On defense, Darren Lake, A’shawn Robinson, Bradley Sylve and a host of others got a chance to show their skills. And, we even got a glimpse of Alabama’s kicking future by seeing Adam Griffin attempt (and miss) a field goal.
Yes, there was a little something for everyone regarding the present and the future of Alabama football. So while the game was never in doubt shortly after it was even scheduled, the test kitchen that was Bryant-Denny field served its purpose. We cracked a few eggs and eventually made ourselves an omelet – a perfect dish for the hated breakfast kickoffs. But what did we really learn? Let’s find out…
Alabama on Offense
Against Colorado State, Coach Saban lamented the fact that his younger, more inexperienced players didn’t get a chance to take the field due to the fact that it was a relatively close game throughout much of the contest. However, against Georgia State there were no such issues. The starters scored touchdowns on four straight possessions and with 13:48 to go in the second quarter it was already 28-0. This allowed Saban & Co to mix and match at their leisure, inserting in Blake Sims and Grant Hill (among others) in with the starters so that they could get some meaningful reps. This week, we’ll devote a huge concentration of the review towards the new kids on the block as, honestly, that’s all this game was about – the young pups. And, in honor of the debut of so many new kids on the Bryant Drive block, we’ll be busting out an 80’s theme this week just for kicks….
Rapper’s Delight: Just as The Sugar Hill gang was the precursor for all of the rap groups and songs who tried to follow Rapper’s Delight, AJ McCarron has set a standard not likely to be matched by the quarterbacks who follow him to the Capstone. AJ has broken just about every QB record at Alabama and on Saturday he broke yet another one by completing 15 of 16 passes against Ga State (and he made it look so darn easy). There are days when you can’t complete 15 of 16 against tall grass so this was quite an achievement!
I Feel For You: Unfair is unleashing the 6’1, 245 lb beast known as Nudie Fowler on the tiny little Panthers from Georgia State. Fowler seemed bigger than their little linemen so it’s no wonder he averaged nearly 8 yards a carry Saturday (3 carries for 23 yards). But, my favorite play was the tear drop that AJ floated to Fowler for a touchdown – Willie Mays would have been proud of that catch!
Believe It Or Not: The theme from the Greatest American Superhero seems to be an appropriate title to the catch that DeAndrew White made. Wow. We’ve gushed about White since he came on campus and he once again wowed us with his athleticism and ability to flat-out catch the ball – this time with only one hand. What a truly amazing Sportscenter top 10 grab…(he now has 15 catches, good for second behind Christion Jones’ 20).
Bang the Drum All Day: I don’t want to work, I just want to bang on the drum all day (as we have since we saw the August scrimmage) that Grant Hill is easily one of the top five linemen on the team. Hill wasn’t flawless (he had a false start) but he was very, very good. Look for Hill to continue to play a significant role (i.e. starting) as the season progresses. The staff didn’t take the redshirt off him to sit him.
Sledgehammer: On a third and short, Alabama assembled the masses across their line of scrimmage and moved the entire Ga State defense back three yards. Bama easily picked up the first down. Where there is a will (and about 2,000 pounds of muscle), there is a way to a first down.
Tainted Love: Know this. I don’t like to be wrong. So, when it comes to Blake Sims’ abilities as a QB, it’s going to be very, very difficult to convince me that he’s better than Alec Morris. I know, I know – he was 14 of 18 for 130 yards. Well, nothing he threw was over 8 or 9 yards down the field and every target he threw at was a stationary target (he did connect on a sweet slant route to Black for a first down). Curls, hitches, wide receiver screens – all of those throws are well within his skill set as a passer. Crossing patterns, in routes, out routes and go patters are not, and that’s half the playbook. Is he serviceable in a pinch? Yes, absolutely. Is he THE guy if AJ goes down or for 2014? I don’t think so. I know that’s an unpopular opinion so “now I know I’ve got to – – run away.”
Backin’ Black: I’m backin’ Black….for more playing time. This kid is just so good with the ball in his hands and we love to see him with the rock on those wide receiver screens. Incidentally, his seven catches on the season are just two behind Amari Cooper and his two touchdown catches are two more than Cooper has this season. No, I’m not saying we should take out Coop – I’m saying in very limited playing time, Black has made the most of his reps. Those hands….those moves…he’s really good.
With or Without You: Speaking of Cooper, did you know that 15 different receivers caught a pass Saturday? Stunning. Even more stunning? Cooper wasn’t one of them. Cooper strangely sat out the first quarter and then was inserted into the lineup on the very first play of the second quarter. Suspension anyone? I know his turf toe must be killing him but evidently there’s possibly a little more going on behind the scenes here. Finebaum says Amari thinks he’s a little more hurt than the staff thinks he is…
The Tide is High: You knew this song would make the list, right? The Bama offense put a ton of new faces out there on Saturday so here are a few that stood out to us that you may or may not have noticed:
- Grant Hill – I know, we talked about him already but he’s really, really good. And, do you think the Tide staff is happy with the OL thus far? I didn’t think so. There’s a reason this kid is out there getting reps at RT – he can help solidify the line. Oh, and he’s really good – did we mention that? A friend of mine who coaches high school said he was a better tackle than Andre Smith – chew on that for a second.
- Alphonse Taylor – For the second game in a row, he kind of popped off the screen at me. He’s massive and he’s athletic enough to pull and create some carnage. One one blitz pickup he threw one Panther into another so consider that blitz picked up. He was fun to watch.
- Chad Lindsay – Did you see a bad snap? Nope. Did you see any gaps in the line? Nope. A good day overall for Lindsay as the new starting center.
- Derrick Henry – Is he not fun to watch? Men that big shouldn’t move like that. 50 yards on 5 carries. Great googly moogly (insert man crush here).
- Malcom Faciane – I had written him off when he was suspended prior to the year. I wrote him off entirely when LaMichael Fanning and, later, Brandon Greene were moved to TE. Next thing you know, he’s making two nice catches against Georgia State. Who knew?
Things Can Only Get Better: Not everyone shined bright like a diamond on Saturday. Here’s a couple of guys who hope that things can only get better…
- Brandon Greene – Well, we got a glimpse of why we haven’t seen him a ton lately. Remember last week against Ole Miss we had Vogler and Howard at TE in short yardage situations? Brandon Greene whiffed on a couple of blocks against the Panthers so he’s evidently struggling a bit in space.
- Leon Brown – We thought he was coming around and, yes, he’s better than he was. That being said, he still appears to have a long way to go before being a viable option at left tackle.
- Dee Hart – Argh, I hate putting him on this list. He’s such a great kid and a great teammate. But, it does appear that he’s lost a couple of steps as a Bama running back. The rest of the team averaged 7.36 yards per carry. Dee had four carries for zero yards. Ouch. He did have an awesome punt return and his usual array of big hits on the kick coverage team.
- Adam Griffith – After striking his extra point well and powering a kickoff into the end zone, Griffith attempted his long-awaited first field goal for Alabama…and missed a chippy from 30 yards out. It was well struck but he never lined it up correctly. In Cade We Trust!
Alabama on Defense
We probably won’t spend quite as much time on the defense because, quite simply, you don’t typically spend a lot of time on Mike Tyson taking down Michael Spinks in 91 seconds. The Tide D was in control throughout the game and were it not for a 53 yard field goal, they would not have given up any points for the second straight week. This D is rounding into shape and with LSU on the horizon, it’s a dang good thing. Before the season we felt the 2013 defense would be much better than the 2012 version and with the very notable exception of the A&M game, it appears we were right.
Maneaters: The strength of this year’s defense may be Alabama’s defensive tackles. In consecutive plays, Brandon Ivory and A’Shawn Robinson played “Whack-a-Mole” with the GSU running backs. Remember, Saban attributed stopping the Ole Miss running game to his front six’s ability to stuff the run. It all starts with the big uns up front – Ivory, Pagan (held out of the GSU game), Robinson and Lake have been awesome this season.
Wild Thing: Speaking of Robinson, he’s been awesome since the first game of the season. He doesn’t just hold the point of attack – he devours it. This guy has been a HUGE reason why the defense has excelled over the last few weeks.
Let’s Get Physical: Oh my goodness (insert Uncle Verne Lundquist chortle here), CJ Mosley rocked the Casbah on a blitz. Boom! He darn near took the handoff (and I’m pretty sure the back wishes he had)!
You Might Think: So, with the loss of Clinton-Dix for an uncertain number of games, Landon Collins took over the free safety spot in the defense. Throughout the game there was a ton of communicating in the back half of the defense as the safeties tried (and failed a couple of times) to get aligned when the GSU team went in motion. Saban’s defenses require a ton of thinking and it may not be as easy as everyone thinks for Collins to slide into Ha Ha’s safety role. Something to keep an eye on, certainly.
Safety Dance: So, the one field goal we gave up was the result of a long pass where freshman corner Maurice Smith neglected to jam (i.e. hit) the receiver at the line of scrimmage. With a free release, the receiver blew past Smith and caught the ball before Vinnie Sunseri could get there in coverage. GSU had another near miss between Sylve and Sunseri earlier in the game. Deep safety continues to be a bit of a problem for Vinnie.
Warrior: I thought Xzavier Dickson continued to play well this week. He’s had a ton of pressures and he finally got rewarded with a sack when he forced an intentional grounding penalty.
Wannabe Startin’ Somethin’: Eddie Jackson got another start and, after giving up a first down on a 10 yard comebacker, Saban subbed him out for the express purpose of coaching him up. There was a great scene on the sideline exchange where Saban was giving some, er, coaching pointers to Jackson. Once he finished with his talking points, Saban subbed Jackson back into the game. With Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham on the horizon, getting the most out of Jackson is priority #1 for the staff.
Jump: We found out this week that a jump ball goes to the offense as Bradley Sylve was in perfect position to come down with an interception only to share the catch with a Panther receiver. The tie goes to the offense so it was a GSU first down.
What You Need: All season long Alabama has needed a pass rusher off the edge but I think the Tide may be finding their guy (similar to Denzell Devall last season). Tim Williams (#56) has shown a ridiculous burst off the edge and has the ability to dip his shoulder and get around the corner. Every time this kid comes into the game he pressures the QB. We likey the speed of Mr Williams.
Home Sweet Home: When CJ Mosley leaves for the NFL next season, the question we’ve had here at the Lighthouse is who in the world will fill his shoes. Well, I think we got a glimpse of the future on Saturday. Reuben Foster will undoubtably play on run downs but Dillon Lee will be your nickel and dime package linebacker. We called him the “hair” apparent last week and that seemed to be confirmed this week.
- Reggie Ragland lined up at defensive end this week. Weird.
- Geno Smith looked out of place at safety. Always a step slow and a bit unsure of himself back there.
- Isaac Luatua actually looked pretty good as a pulling guard. That’s a bit of a first.
- Korren Kiven has some good moments at nose but he had some bad ones, as well. We think he’s more of a defensive end in the long run.
- Mega props to walk-ons Corey McCarron, Michael Nysewander, Ty Reed, Paul Waldrop and Parker Barrineau who each saw their blood, sweat and tears rewarded with hard-earned playing time!