Ok folks, it’s Iron Bowl week so look alive! Well, that is unless you are A’shawn Robinson, Ardarius Stewart, Brian Vogler, Cam Robinson or Amari Cooper and then you need to be looking both alive AND well. The story coming out of the Western Carolina game was obviously the ridiculous amount of attrition that Bama suffered during the game. I’m no doctor and I certainly didn’t stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, but of the injuries it appeared the injuries to Vogler and A’shawn were the two worst ones. I personally think everyone except Vogler will play their usual roles against Auburn this week. However, the one I’m most curious about is Cooper’s injury. He took one helluva hit on his knee with it planted in the ground so I’ll be watching to see if he has that same ole Cooper burst that we’ve grown to love, admire and Coooooooop to this season…
But, before we get into the Iron Bowl, we want to devote a little bit of time to our chop blocking friends from Western Carolina. I mean, really, those chop blocks were horrific and are beyond dangerous. I think I’d garnish half of their paycheck for those hits, alone. But, the Catamounts served their purpose because they gave us an extra week of prep for Auburn since they run some similar sets out of their offense. Here are a few of the items we wanted to point out from that game before we turn on the tape to begin breaking down the broken down Tigers….
Alabama on Offense
After watching Nick Saban chew on Lane Kiffin’s ass for throwing the ball too much, all I can say is Nick, now you know how we feel! The purpose of this game was to get the kids some reps and the only way to do that is to run up the score early and then sub in the puppies as soon as humanly possible. Unfortunately, Lane evidently didn’t get the memo because the Tide took to the air repeatedly, causing misfires and keeping the score entirely too close. At 10-7, Saban lost his ever loving mind and express his “desire” to run the ball down the Catamounts’ throat. Soon thereafter, it was 38-14 and it was time to let the puppies out of their pen and onto the carpet. Some of them peed. Some of them went around in circles. But, some of them chewed up some little Cats!
Ardarius Stewart: We noticed a while back that Kiffin was making a concerted effort to get this playmaker the ball and I think we are all seeing why – Stewart is a speed demon! Swings, hitches and deep routes are all on the menu for Ardarius and, if he’s healthy, I look for him to continue to expand his role. He had one catch on a ball that was thrown behind him that was just stellar. Let’s just say I think we found the heir apparent to Coop for next season. Oh, and he’s the best blocking WR we have (and that’s saying a lot with Christion Jones and DeAndrew White on the team) – he had a beauty of a block on Derrick Henry’s 10 yard TD run.
Jalston Fowler: Don’t you love seeing his big self line up at tailback? My goodness. Perhaps that’s why the little Cats resorted to chop blocking – running Fowler and Henry down their throats was just cruel and unusual punishment. Fowler is going to be one tremendous pro football player…
Blake Sims: What an up and down game for Sims. There were moments where he was wild and erratic and then there were moments like the one where he hit Cam Sims on a deep cross. Then he missed Stewart being completely wide open in the end zone but came back to zip a seed to Chris Black in one of the tighter windows we’ve seen him throw thru. But, by and large Sims was not sharp and not accurate, under throwing balls or wrong shouldering his receivers. Meanwhile…
Jake Coker: Say what you will about this being Western Carolina but there were numerous times where Coker showed us what all the fuss was about coming into the season. He completed NFL throw after NFL throw, showing tremendous timing, accuracy and velocity each and every time. He only made one bad decision on the night when he forced a throw back into the middle of the field where it was almost picked. But, he made some WOW throws that certainly made me think he has a ton of potential. Maybe he’s finding his comfort zone or maybe Kiffin is working with him to get over some of his flaws. Whatever the case, Coker looked outstanding.
OJ Howard: Howard made two nice catches, including one where he high pointed and attacked the football. Nice.
Tyren Jones: What do y’all want me to tell you about Jones? I’ve been touting him for two years and now you all got to see what I saw at a fall scrimmage when he was a true freshman. His vision and patience complement his speed and surprising power perfectly and I absolutely love to watch this kid run!!!! Tenpenny showed strength and toughness, as well, but no one makes me as moist when they run the football than Tyren Jones does… 🙂
Not much else to say here. It’s impossible to evaluate the offensive line because they are going up against kids who are literally half their size. When Alabama wanted to run the football, they did so with ease. And Alabama’s main goal was to get their second, third and fourth stringers in, and they did so by the start of the third quarter. I do wish Sims had looked much more crisp but I am pleased that Coker appeared to have taken tremendous strides.
Alabama on Defense
Listen, I’m not going to bore you too much in this space about the defense. It was men against boys so it was more than surprising when the “boys” put up 14 points! But, Alabama began to take over once they got a little more interested in the game and I think it helped that Saban and Smart were dialing up blitzes like a fat guy dials up Dominoes. Here are a few things that stood out to me during the game…
Lab Rats: Saban and Smart dialed up a ton of different blitzes throughout the game and it almost seemed like they were experimenting to see what they liked and didn’t like. Corners, backers and safeties all blitzed with reckless abandon and it seemed to ratchet up the intensity for the defense.
Hardcover: Trey DePriest and Reggie Ragland seemed to struggle again in pass coverage and for the second week in a row, Alabama’s defense gave up quite a bit of yardage to the running backs who are sprinting laterally on swing passes. Look for Auburn to try this a number of times because the Tide has struggles in shutting this play down.
Trips Issues: Dan Mullen found two route combinations in the red zone last week that resulted in passing touchdowns and this week Western Carolina used a similar combo to score their first touchdowns. Alabama doesn’t play straight man in the red zone as they pass off combination routes to one another as they change. Unfortunately, State and Carolina decided not to run the expected routes and confusion reigned in the secondary once again.
Cyrus the Virus: Poor Cyrus Jones – he did not have his best day at the office. But, to me, the worst play was when the little Carolina running back lowered his head and lowered the boom on Jones near the sidelines. Jones fell down and the little Catamount chugged on down the field. He honestly has been the best and most reliable corner on the team this season and he’s certainly been the most targeted defender, as well. And when Saban is trusting you to play on an island, well, you will have numerous opportunities to fail. Thankfully, he’s won far more times than he’s lost and he more than earned my trust when he battled two LSU throws in overtime.
Tim the Tool Man: Tim Williams! Get some! No one on the team has a better rush that he does with the possible exception of Rashaan Evans. Love me some Tim Williams – all he does is create havoc and get sacks.
Josh Frazier: Welp, we got to see why everyone was talking about Josh Frazier in fall camp! In one quick motion he had completed a swim move against the guard and was breathing down the QBs neck! Frazier got his first of many sacks to come in his career.
I’m not going to bore you guys to death with any other observations because, at the end of the day, it was a game against a team that Alabama should never schedule. That being said, the Tide got a nice little practice session against a team that runs a similar offense to what Auburn runs and they got to unleash their young kids and get them some invaluable playing time. Aside from the multitude of injuries, the story of the game to me was the play of Tyren Jones and Jake Coker. We also got to see a variety of receiving weapons including Stewart, Black and Foster – all of whom looked brilliant at times. The future is bright, but then that’s exactly what we’d expect with #1 recruiting class after #1 recruiting class, right?
So now we are on to Auburn. The Iron Bowl. The Tide wants revenge. It wants an SEC West championship. It wants a National Championship. And, for the second year in a row, all that stands in their way is the Auburn Tigers. Revenge is a dish best served cold, and I figure Alabama will be more than happy to put these Tigers on ice.