Alabama midseason report card: Crimson Tide have room to improve
We’re already six games through the 2015 season, which means the SEC Championship Game is right around the corner.
Let’s review the Crimson Tide’s body of work at the midway point.
The issue has not been scoring points; it’s been avoiding mistakes that put the defense in tough situations. Turnovers sunk the Crimson Tide against Ole Miss, and nearly did so again vs. Arkansas.
Despite several gaffes, Jake Coker appears to be improving. Derrick Henry has found his stride. Calvin Ridley is already a star.
The offensive line still needs work, but it has not been below average. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin appears to have his personnel in order, and it’s up to him to utilize it correctly over the final six games.
The one game detractors consistently point back to is Ole Miss, but that’s not fair. The Tide defense — zero turnovers, several big plays — could have stepped up more, but it was the victim of offensive and special teams turnovers, as well as two out-of-the-ordinary touchdown plays.
We’ve seen the “real” Alabama defense against UGA and Arkansas, and it’s one of the nation’s best.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
Kicker Adam Griffith is 6-of-12 and seemingly waiting to blow a game during crunch time. Punter JK Scott has not lived up to preseason expectations. The return game has not produced any big highlights, with the longest kick return being a 40-yarder by Kenyan Drake.
Minkah Fitzpatrick had a huge punt block and recovery against Georgia, but other than that, this unit has been borderline shameful in 2015.
Kirby Smart’s defense is airtight, while Kiffin’s offense is a week-to-week proposition. The key to the second half will be Coker’s progression — whether or not he can cut down on killer mistakes is on Nick Saban.
Team MVP: Reggie Ragland, senior LB
Ragland has been one of few constants for the Crimson Tide in an up-and-down year. His performance against Arkansas was one of the country’s most impressive of the season.
Offensive MVP: Calvin Ridley, freshman WR
The key word here is “valuable.” Ridley broke open the Georgia game with two huge plays in the first half, and then potentially saved Alabama’s season with an 81-yard touchdown catch against Arkansas. He’s turned the wideout group from a weakness into a strength after Robert Foster’s injury.
Best Freshman: Ridley
There are plenty of options here, but no one has made as much of a splash as No. 3.
Biggest Surprise: Jarran Reed, senior DL
The 313-pound tackle has seen his draft stock go from nonexistent to sky high in a matter of weeks. Reed is dominating offensive lines and shutting down running backs in the process.
Best Play: Minkah Fitzpatrick blocks UGA punt
This was the turning point for Alabama’s season; the moment when ‘Bama went up two scores at Georgia and flung itself headfirst into the national picture again.
Most likely to explode in second half: Kenyan Drake, senior RB
Drake was sluggish against Georgia, but broke off some bigger gains against Arkansas. He’s too explosive to be held down in Saturday’s track meet against Texas A&M. Expect a big play or two.
Most likely to turn pro early: A’Shawn Robinson, junior DL
This one has been a foregone conclusion since preseason. Several draft prognosticators have Robinson in or near their Top 10 rankings, and he should be one of the first defensive linemen off the board.
Projected finish: 10-2, Sugar Bowl bid
Alabama’s win over Arkansas is more indicative of how the rest of the season will go than its 38-10 blowout against Georgia. This is an inconsistent Tide squad, and it still faces three big tests (at Texas A&M, at Mississippi State and vs. LSU) before we can talk about the Georgia Dome or the College Football Playoff.