BATON ROUGE, La. — You are by now aware that Alabama is very good. And you’re probably sick of hearing just how good the Crimson Tide are. But until someone beats them, it’s the type of conversation that cannot be avoided.
We checked in with SEC Country’s own Alabama beat writer, Marq Burnett, to ask about what it is that makes this team so impressive — and find what another team will need to do to beat them.
AH: What is Alabama’s biggest weakness? Yes, you actually have to find one.
MB: Offensively, Alabama can shoot itself in the foot at times with penalties and negative plays. Against Texas A&M, Alabama moved the ball easily on its first two drives, but settled for field goals. Lane Kiffin also got a little cute in the redzone with playcalling. That allowed A&M to hang around longer than they should have. It wouldn’t shock me at all if Alabama’s offense commits a penalty or two because of the crowd noise.
AH: With so many stars on defense, how vital was injured safety Eddie Jackson? And who will replace him?
MB: Eddie Jackson was a huge part of this defense. He was the quarterback of the secondary. Jackson made all of the calls and adjustments on the field. Alabama won’t be able to replace his experience and leadership.
From what we’ve seen, it looks like Minkah Fitzpatrick is going to make the move to safety. Fitzpatrick is one of the smarter players on this defense. His ability to read the quarterback actually make him a great option at safety. We’ll also see an increased role for Tony Brown and Hootie Jones in some of the sub packages.
AH: What will it take for someone to slow down Alabama’s offense?
MB: You have to make Jalen Hurts beat you with his arm. That’s not to say he can’t do it, but you’d rather take your chances with him having to throw the ball than him having space to run. Alabama’s downfield passing game hasn’t consistently clicked to this point of the season. A lot of that is because Hurts needs more reps and time with the receivers.
AH: What is it like covering games where you actually expect to see the defense score every week? And how does an opponent burst the confidence a unit like that plays with?
MB: Alabama’s run of non-offensive touchdowns is the best thing about this season. Every week, you’re sort of just waiting for it to happen, and then boom, they return a fumble for a score or a punt for a touchdown. It’s truly remarkable.
Honestly, I think that’s the most demoralizing thing for an opposing offense. Not only is it tough to move the ball against Alabama, but teams must be aware that if they turn the ball over, Alabama’s defense is explosive enough to quickly turn the takeaway into points.
AH: I’m naming you GM of, say, the Cleveland Browns, or any other team that needs players at virtually every position. Who is the first Bama player you take in 2017, and why?
MB: Jonathan Allen. He’s a dominant player as a pass rusher and he’s just as good against the run. He really is a complete defensive lineman. Allen also makes game-changing plays. He’s scored two touchdowns on fumble returns, including the one against Texas A&M that put that game away. Oh yeah, and he can fly.