Alabama has a QB controversy. Life is funny sometimes. If Tua Tagovailoa wouldn’t have gotten an opportunity in the CFP Final against Georgia, there may not be a controversy. The fact that he came in the game and made a play so incredible that it would have been too far-fetched for movies really opened the door for him to assume QB1 duties. Jalen Hurts is a very gifted runner. He is also one of the better leaders of the Saban Era at Alabama. His problem is that he is very limited as a passer. 2017 showed that he is good enough to lead his team to the playoffs, but 2018 showed that he probably isn’t good enough to win another title. Tua is one of the most gifted passers in the entire country and will be a player that is adored by NFL franchises. I believe the final sequence of the game against Georgia painted the current picture of Tua and where he’s at in his development:
How about that game last night!? After taking a horrible sack in OT, true freshman Tua Tagovailoa throws a BEAUTY to win #Alabama the 2018 #CFPNationalChampionship! #RollTide pic.twitter.com/9CSRfiJs4t
— FaceOff USA (@FaceOffUSA) January 9, 2018
Seemingly every time Tua got his opportunity to play last season, he would show how incredibly talented he was, but he would also show that he is still very inexperienced and needs to grow as a decision maker. I think we will likely see both QBs play this year but I believe that Tua will be the primary QB. The most recent setback was a thumb injury that Tua incurred, and it has caused him to miss the majority of spring camp. Unfortunately, he won’t play in the scrimmage so we will get to see if Hurts has improved as a passer and also what Mac Jones has in the tank.
In a recent interview with Bleacher Report, Jalen Hurts’ father had this to say about his son’s future:
“Coach Saban’s job is to do what’s best for his team. I have no problem with that,” Averion Hurts said. “My job is to do what’s best for Jalen—and make no mistake, Jalen is a quarterback, and he wants to play quarterback. He loves Alabama, loves Coach Saban and everything about that place. But he wants to play, and he will play…”
Averion stops mid-sentence because the idea of his son not playing for Alabama isn’t one he takes lightly. What if Jalen doesn’t win the job, he is asked?
He shakes his head slowly, answers begrudgingly. “Well, he’d be the biggest free agent in college football history.”
There is unlikely to be any clarity until deep into fall camp, but I would feel pretty comfortable saying that Tua will be the guy and he has above-average CFF value and excellent Devy value.
Like usual, Alabama has one of the most talented RB rooms in college football. Damien Harris elected to return for his final season, and he can put a bow on an outstanding college career. He has made steady improvements as a player each season, and he has gone from a player that I thought would be little else beyond a mop-up runner to one of the nation’s top backs. The problem from a CFF standpoint is that Harris has only managed 50, 160, and 147 touches in each of his last three seasons. He scored 11 TDs last season which certainly helped him to achieve the overall RB26 ranking. If he doesn’t score as many TDs this season and maintains similar volume, then I’m not as optimistic that he will be as fantasy relevant in 2018. Behind him this spring, SO Najee Harris and SO Brian Robinson have been getting a lot of reps. Both players are very talented, and I’m looking forward to seeing both get a lot of work in the scrimmage. The player that I like most in the backfield is JR Josh Jacobs. He had a very admirable true freshman season in 2016 and was poised to see his workload increase last year, but a hamstring and then ankle injury derailed those plans. After the season, Jacobs revealed that he played the majority of the season on a broken ankle! This was done with a BROKEN ANKLE:
I love watching Josh Jacobs play football. pic.twitter.com/scecpgeK61
— Clint Lamb (@ClintRLamb) October 23, 2017
TrFR Jerome Ford is a player that has a skill set that is very comparable to Josh Jacobs, but he has very little experience as a true RB and could be in line for a redshirt. He is one of the most talented backs in this incoming recruiting class, and I’m very excited about his future. I am unsure how the rotation will look this season, but I don’t see a situation unfolding like 2015 when Derrick Henry managed 406 touches! If I had to guess, both Damien and Najee Harris and Jacobs will be the top three volume players in 2018.
The area where Alabama has consistently improved is in the quality of pass catchers that they’ve acquired. The current depth chart at WR looks like this:
WR X: Devonta Smith, Mac Hereford
WR Z: Derek Kief, Chadarius Townsend
WR H: Henry Ruggs III, Xavian Marks
The two players that are missing from this group are Jerry Jeudy and Tyrell Shavers. They are dealing with knee and toe injuries. Jeudy, made in the mold of Calvin Ridley, will be a regular in this WR rotation this fall. Tyrell Shavers is the biggest athletic freak at WR since Julio Jones was having a great spring until hurting his toe. Unfortunately, he is a raw bundle of potential, and he really could have used the extra reps this spring. Seemingly every year, Bama has a WR that seems to be a good blocker and just takes up space. That is what Kief feels like to me when I look at this group, and that will be the role that I hope to see Shavers assume this fall. Jaylen Waddle is an incoming freshman that I’m excited to see work out of the slot in the next few years. Smith, Ruggs, Jeudy, and Shavers are all NFL players and comprise a very gifted WR core. Tight end is a really solid position for the Tide as well. The player that will have the most CFF and Devy relevance is Irv Smith. I believe Smith is one of the most talented TEs in the country, but he has been underutilized like OJ Howard was. He often lines up as an H-Back, and he has elite athleticism for a TE. Not only that, but he can bring the pain as a blocker as well:
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) January 2, 2018
I’m unsure if he will be used enough to be fantasy relevant in 2018 but he is a player that I think will have a very nice NFL career.
The defense has some really good football players to replace. That is almost the case every year, but it feels more significant to me this season. DE Raekwon Davis is the largest human that I’ve ever seen. He was shot in the leg (WITH A BULLET) days before the season opener a couple of years back and played in the game that Saturday! Let’s just enjoy a few clips from the Mountain:
— DLineVids (@DLineVids) September 3, 2017
Serious wingspan & hands from Alabama DT Raekwon Davis 99 pic.twitter.com/S3w7Uff23R
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) January 15, 2018
So much for that dagger… Raekwon Davis with shades of Payne's INT last week. Bama once again has life. pic.twitter.com/42cmUpKCAY
— Cagen Cantrell (@CeeingTheDraft) January 9, 2018
The SEC is wealthy with defensive line talent this season, and he is near the top of that list. Bama has a lineage of great linebackers and this year’s crop should be no different. The OLBs were decimated by injury last season, but if they can stay healthy, then this is a terrific group with Christian Miller, Terrell Lewis, and Anfernee Jennings. Lewis is a personal favorite of mine. Check out this play from last spring:
If you were wondering what the result of that play from Terrell Lewis would’ve been on the almost interception. pic.twitter.com/uIYODh3Ljp
— Clint Lamb (@ClintRLamb) January 2, 2018
The ILBs will primarily consist of Mack Wilson and Dylan Moses. If you play ILB for Coach Saban, it’s almost guaranteed you will be a high pick in the NFL Draft. These two are cut from that same cloth. The secondary is going to look very different. Bama loses several very good players and will really have to rebuild this unit. FS Deionte Thompson is the player with the most experience, and he will need to be the backbone of this group. Former 5-star CB and LSU commit, Saivion Smith, went to JUCO last year and is expected to lock down one side of the field and has reportedly been as advertised during camp. This defense should be very good this fall, per usual.