Welcome back to the semi-controversial Bama Lighthouse where we’ll tell you “What to Watch For” against Florida Atlantic. Florida Atlantic….where apparently they feel the need to differentiate themselves from Florida Pacific? Florida Atlantic…where their mascot isn’t just an Owl – it’s a burrowing owl! And after watching these burrowing owls receive a 55-7 beat down from Nebraska last week (and give up 498 yards rushing in the process), that burrowing thing kinda makes a little more sense. Hide – here they come again! Honestly, this is a dud of a game and it’s hard to give a hoot about a team that gave up 784 yards of total offense last week. So, instead of breaking down what FAU likes to do (evidently like getting beaten to a pulp on Saturdays), I’ll just tell you that they are coached by a Bret Bielema disciple and that should tell you most of what you need to know. Someday they hope to be run oriented instead of run-over oriented but that day will not be Saturday.
What to Watch For When Bama is on Offense
The age old axiom in football is that teams improve the most from week one to week two. Well, if that’s the case then Alabama’s offense should have quite the field day on Saturday given what Nebraska did to FAU! This Saturday Alabama will simply focus on refining the offense, ironing out a few bugs and giving some younger kids the opportunity to step up and gain some valuable playing time. We already know who is going to win the beauty pageant but we’ll still want to tune in to see how we look in our Crimson swim suit competition.
Hurry Up: With Blake Sims struggling to get the play calls in, Kiffin and Saban employed a hurry up offense to alleviate much of the verbiage and quicken the tempo last week. The Alabama offense and Sims in particular responded well so I’ll be curious to see if it’s huddles as usual or if the Tide will spend even more time in the hurry up.
White/Black Issue: No, I’m not talking about the QB competition. With DeAndrew White out with a shoulder injury, Chris Black’s time on the field should be multiplied exponentially. Ardarius Stewart and Christion Jones will likely share time out wide at White’s spot which should open up the slot for Chris Black. I forgot to mention the great contested catch he made on a third down slant pass last week. Every time this kid gets a chance to play, he’s very, very impressive. As I’ve stated before, he and Cooper came in at the same time and it was Black who garnered the headlines before sustaining a season ending injury.
Invisible Touches: OJ Howard, meet the football. Football, meet Mr OJ Howard. Please. Anything less than four touches for OJ is downright criminal so last week’s ZERO is inexcusable. There were three or four plays designed for him but they didn’t break open as planned. We hope this changes this week!
Short, Short Men: The one knock I had on the O-line last week was the failure to pick up two third and shorts. FAU has one pretty decent inside player and their two tackles go over 290 lbs. However, did I mention the nearly 500 yards rushing the Huskers put on them last week? Bama’s line should absolutely dominate this week and converting short yardage opportunities is a must.
Jonesing: Yes, Yeldon and Henry will get their touches and they’ll be impressive as usual. Look for Kenyan Drake to get some touches in the flats as Kiffin clearly plans to get him out in space. However, if the game becomes a run away, I’m hoping you guys will get to see Tyren Jones. This kid is dynamic and has impressed when we’ve seen him in scrimmages!
Right Guard: In my opinion, Alphonse Taylor locked up the RG position after Leon Brown committed three penalties last week. But, I’ll be paying attention to see if Taylor continues to build on his performance.
Dropping a Deuce: After the first stringers have their fun, I’m excited to see the second string line, second string receivers and, dare I say, the second string QB. Coker will finally get his moment to shine but he’s going to have to be some kind of awesome to gain ground on Sims. Coker’s arm is legit and NFL caliber and if he takes off from the pocket you’ll likely say, “wow, I didn’t know he could do that!” Decision making is his only hurdle to becoming special.
Alabama on Defense
Thankfully, these burrowing owls don’t take to the air so you should see a return to dominance from the Alabama defense. I really don’t think this is going to be much of a test and it certainly won’t be an opportunity to evaluate the lessons learned from last week’s HUNH experience against WVU. That being said, there are still a couple of things to keep an eye on Saturday.
Linebacking: Reggie Ragland and Reuben Foster really didn’t play their best games last week so the fact that Trey DePriest will be back this week is a big deal. While DePriest isn’t fast, he’s a thumper and he knows the defense as well as anyone on the team. Once he leaves the field, I’ll be watching to see if anyone else can step up and show that they are ready to play a pivotal role at linebacker this season. I continue to think Dillon Lee will play on nickel and dime formations as he’s the most athletic LB on the roster.
Lonely Men on the Corner: Whoa Nelly, Bradley Sylve had a day to forget last Saturday. He had the best vantage point of anyone in the stadium as his eyes were trained on the wide receiver who was kicking his tail all day. This week we’ll see an assortment of DBs at the corner position as the open auditions will commence. Maurice Smith, Tony Brown and maybe even Eddie Jackson will all get opportunities to show why they should be the final answer at the corner position. At the other corner position, Cyrus Jones looked really good by comparison so we’ll see if he can continue to be Bama’s top corner after being Bama’s bottom corner last year.
Formationally Speaking: WVU showed a number of formations that Alabama simply failed to match up with last week. With DePriest back on the field, look for Alabama to be far more sound in this department this week. Also, look for fewer coverage busts by the linebackers and safeties who are typically responsible for the backs out of the backfield. The Tide did a terrible job picking up the backs last week so look for the defense to match up much better this week.
Picks to Click: Here are some guys I’m excited to watch this week: Deshawn Hand, Rashaan Evans, Geno Smith, the aforementioned corners and DJ Pettway. Pettway is a beast and I think he’ll show up big time this week. The Owls’ offensive line is really, really bad so I believe you’ll see a lot of penetration by the D-line as these Owls burrow for cover.
Listen, this will be an epic beat down of epic proportions. About the only thing you can get out of this game is how the backups look this season. With four, five, six or however many #1 recruiting classes Alabama has landed, it will be a tremendous disappointment if Bama doesn’t dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
Jake Coker is finally going to get a shot and I don’t believe there’s any possible way he can live up to the hype that has surrounded him since January. I think you’ll see a kid with a ton of potential but, as I’ve stated numerous times before, I think you’ll see a kid who simply holds the ball too long. One reason is that he doesn’t have the full grasp of the offense but another reason could be that there is so much chaos taking place downfield it’s difficult to decipher the right reads. Meanwhile, little ole Blake Sims will dink and dunk his way up and down the field – nothing flashy but certainly effective. I keep coming back to the same analogy – Blake Sims is the five iron off the tee box. It’s not flashy but it keeps you on the fairway and out of trouble. Coker is the driver. With Coker you can drive the green but the question is which green will it be – the one you are aiming at or the one on the adjacent fairway?
Final Score: Alabama 48 FAU 0
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