Good morning. The Rammer Jammer is a daily rundown of everything you need to know about Alabama athletics, published every weekday morning.
Wednesday morning sees soaring confidence ahead of Alabama’s matchup against No. 6 Texas A&M at home on Saturday. The lines in Vegas, which started at Alabama (-16.5) have moved to a 20-point margin at some books. The public and the press all have confidence in Alabama, and so do you judging by our poll from yesterday. 75 percent of you are picking Alabama to win, with 45 percent taking the Crimson Tide to cover. If you haven’t voted, be sure to now.
I wonder if this confidence isn’t a slight overreaction to the Tennessee game. Yes, Alabama dominated that game, and yes, Alabama should handle Texas A&M, but we’re not far removed from a 400-yard performance by the Alabama secondary, and the Aggies boast the most prolific offense in the conference, led by a quarterback who has dinked and dunked all over Alabama before in Trevor Knight. Perhaps this is over-wary of me, but it seems premature to relegate Texas A&M to three-touchdown underdog status so quickly.
But then again I picked Texas A&M to beat Alabama two years ago and Alabama won 59-0, so what do I know?
Oh, and, by the way, before you get too worried about Trevor Knight, just remember, as AL.com’s Matt Zenitz writes, it could have been Jalen Hurts.
- Oh sure, when Kevin Scarbinsky writes that Jalen Hurts isn’t really a Heisman hopeful, he gets 1,000 comments but when I do it I just get a few angry tweets.
- Here’s a nice aside on the ‘nickel rabbits’ package that Alabama employs, by AL.com’s Rainer Sabin. To explain a little deeper, the rabbits packages, which Alabama uses in both Nickel and Dime defense, involve substituting lineman instead of linebackers, and getting two linebackers (usually Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson) to play as hand-in-the-dirt edge rushers. It’s a key part of Alabama’s pass rush, especially since Alabama’s base defense is essentially the Nickel package at this point.
- And here’s a glimpse at the balance in Alabama’s rushing attack. It’s a reminder that Lane Kiffin is calling entire scripts of plays, attempting to force an opponent into a particular defense to exploit for a big play. That’s why he’s not always running the ball.
- It turns out one of the great dynasties in college football history is good at beating ranked teams. Statistically speaking, I mean.
- Prepare for another 3:30 p.m. ET Iron Bowl on CBS, if Verne Lundquist is right.
- From our own Marq Burnett, offensive lineman Alphonse Taylor is now just limited, and more practice notes.
- Also from Burnett, linebacker Ryan Anderson spoke at length about Alabama’s team chemistry.
Top five… Alabama seniors
I wrote Tuesday about the brief history of Alabama-Texas A&M in the SEC. Looking down those results, its clear that the biggest games came in the first two years of the matchup. Nearly every player on the team was in high school then, if that. Only the seniors were there.
Much has been written about Alabama’s youth movement this year, but let’s take a glance at the old heads who set the tone on and off the field. These are Alabama’s top five seniors this season.
5. Ryan Anderson – LB
Ryan Anderson w/ good UOH to quickly get RT's hands off his chest & hit Dobbs as he throws https://t.co/pdzfPUmSlm
— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) October 17, 2016
Anderson maybe hasn’t gotten the credit he deserves, playing on these deep Alabama defensive fronts. The redshirt senior leads the team in tackles-for-loss and sacks. He’s often passed over for Tim Williams when discussing pass rush, but Anderson is a versatile and disruptive force for Alabama on defense. Look at the way he sheds his blocker in the video above. He does that every down.
4. Jonathan Allen – DL
— BamaVine (@BamaVine) October 2, 2016
He of ‘Alabama does‘ infamy, Jonathan Allen anchors a pass rush and run defense that ranks among the most fearsome in recent memory. His decision to return to Alabama was monumental, and so far, has been more than worth it. He’s a future NFL lineman, and has shown an ability to play on the interior or exterior of the line, depending on the situation. If Allen keeps playing at this level, there’s every chance that ‘Alabama will’ again.
3. O.J. Howard – TE
Alabama TE OJ Howard really helping himself by becoming more physical in 2016. Blocking has improved. https://t.co/zPrL1Fc2dZ
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) September 20, 2016
The unicorn of Alabama’s multi-faceted offense, Howard remains frustrating to many Alabama fans — not because of his play, but because Lane Kiffin doesn’t utilize him more than a few times per game. Howard was one of the many heroes of the national championship game last season, earning the MVP award. This season he’s only caught 12 passes, but his athleticism can’t be ignored, by fans or defenders. The highlight featured isn’t even a catch by Howard. I chose it because it shows how much he’s grown as a player. When I first started watching Howard in practice, he couldn’t block a walk-on. Now he can pick up a blitz with the best of them.
2. Reuben Foster – LB
The middle linebacker position at Alabama is iconic, and lately, it’s a surefire pipeline to the NFL. Foster has gone from a hard-hitting cruise missile who couldn’t stay on the field to a general of Alabama’s defense. He’s a brilliant player who diagnoses plays with ease, and possesses physical attributes that even players like CJ Mosley and Reggie Ragland lacked. Also, he went to Auburn High School and still chose Alabama, which I know many of you love.
1. Eddie Jackson – S
Jackson’s senior season has been something of a breakout, which seems strange to say, given how productive his junior season was. He’s the clear leader of Alabama’s defense, particularly in the secondary, and holds Alabama records for interception return yardage and career pick-sixes. This year, he’s added to his repertoire as a punt returner of incredible vision and skill. Whether he’s running back punts or kickoffs, he’s a threat to score every time the ball finds his hand, which is happening more and more often. When Jackson first transitioned into his position at safety, he took some of the worst angles on pursuits that I’ve ever seen, and struggled to play routes over the center of the field. Now, he jumps route after route to defend passes, and has made several touchdown-saving tackles.