Comparing 2015 Crimson Tide to 2011: Will It Be a Similar Result?


We’ve been asking the same question throughout the offseason about the Crimson Tide: can they win the national championship without a proven quarterback? The easy answer here is “Well, look at 2009 and 2011. They did it then, why not now?”

That’s what I’m saying, but it isn’t the quarterback situation that should consume your time, contemplating who will throw the ball to who.  It’s a scintillating topic for sure, but ultimately it’s a moot point because we’ve seen this exact situation unfold before, in 2011.

Okay, so let’s go ahead and get obvious out of the way. In 2011, we all remember the quarterback situation: would it be A.J. McCarron or Philip Sims who replaced 2009 national champion Greg McElroy? (Hindsight is always 20/20, mind you).

Of course, McCarron won the job and led the Tide to a national championship over the LSU Tigers in the first and only intraconference BCS National Championship Game. Alabama didn’t really need an experienced quarterback then, can we all agree on that point?

Now that we’re all in agreement, let’s move to the other similarities. This season, we’re looking to replace a high draft pick running back, right? T.J. Yeldon will begin his career in Jacksonville soon, as he was selected in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. As much as Bama fans will say, “We can replace him, he wasn’t that special,” he was almost the only running back in school history to record back-to-back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Bobby Humphrey never did that. Shaun Alexander never did that. Johnny Musso never did that. Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram never did that.

Speaking of Mark Ingram…

In the 2011 NFL Draft, Mark Ingram was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. Alabama had to find a way to replace one of the greatest running backs in Tide history. I’d say they did just fine with the combination of Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy (both of whom are still playing in the NFL).

Fast forward to 2015, and you’ll see a similar pair of horses sharing the load for Alabama. We all know “El Tractorcito” Derrick Henry will be the main man in the backfield, but who’s going to be sharing his snaps? Well, returning senior Kenyan Drake is back off his season-ending leg injury last season, and he looks to be at 100 percent, as well as 100 percent on the media’s good side after his solid performance at SEC Media Days 2015.

Speaking of solid performances…

Anyone remember some guy named Julio Jones? Yeah, that guy. Just some guy who is arguably the best wide receiver in football now. He wasn’t on that 2011 team because he decided to take his talents to the NFL, joining up with Matt Ryan and Roddy White in Atlanta.

How in the world could Alabama ever replace a spectacular talent like him?

Easy enough it seems.

Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks were the two main targets out wide in 2011 (along with contributions from Kevin Norwood and Kenny Bell). We also saw some of freshman DeAndrew White that season, too (by the way, I threw in that nugget just to make us all feel really old).

Let’s move ahead in the action four years…

One of the greatest players in Bama history decided to take off to the NFL in Amari Cooper. He was able to set a ton of records and make Julio’s numbers look pedestrian. Cooper is and will always be a legend in Alabama lore.

So who in the wide world of sports replaces him??

Well like in 2011, the 2015 Tide squad has a couple smaller receivers to fill the role in Chris Black and ArDarius Stewart (sheer coincidence that ArDarius and Darius are being compared now, but I digress). We’ll see some of Robert Foster and Raheem Falkins as well, and I really wish we could see some of the bigger target Cam Sims, but his unfortunate knee injury back in spring practice may sideline him for the season.

One more offensive comparison? One more offensive comparison.

Who was it that started at left tackle in 2010? I don’t know, some guy named James Carpenter, who was only selected in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. The Tide had to replace him that next season and did so fairly well in Mr. Swiss Army Knife himself, Barrett Jones.

Now, back to 2015. Okay, you got me there, Alabama actually returns Cam Robinson, one of the top NFL prospects for 2016. Needless to say, this is a bad comparison, but at least you see that Alabama is fine at protecting the blind-side of whoever the quarterback will be.

Now, I’m more interested in the defensive side of the ball for the Tide, so let’s head over there to finish up this article.

I think we can all be in agreement that the 2011 Alabama defense was nasty. And when I say “nasty,” I actually mean “niasty.”

They only allowed 8.2 points/game and gave up only 183.6 yards/game. Silly video game numbers.

They didn’t have to replace much on defense in 2011. Marcell Dareus took off for the NFL after the 2010 season, but he was replaced with both Damion Square and Jesse Williams. They returned both starting corners (also adding Dequan Menzie to the mix), both safeties in Mark Barron and Robert Lester, and also three big-time linebackers in Nico Johnson, Dont’a Hightower, and Courtney Upshaw.

So what does the 2015 version of the Tide have to replace on defense from 2014?

Not too terribly much to be honest.

Yeah, losing Landon Collins was a big blow to the defense, but they return 2015 preseason All-SEC Cyrus Jones, Eddie Jackson, and Geno Smith. Plus, with the inevitability of playing time from sophomore Tony Brown and redshirt freshman Marlon Humphrey, that secondary will be a force to be reckoned with.

In the middle, the Tide lost Xzavier Dickson and Trey DePriest, but return all-everything leader Reggie Ragland, along with Denzell Devall and Reuben Foster. Include in that equation a little splash of Shaun Dion Hamilton, Rashaan Evans, and Ryan Anderson, and they’ll be quite alright at linebacker.

Long story short, this 2015 team is similar to the 2011 team (Why do people say “long story short” when they clearly made it a long story to begin with? Some questions we’ll never be able to answer). We all had the same exact conversations in 2011 that we’re having now. There’s really not much to argue.

Will the 2015 defense be as dominant as 2011? Highly doubtful, especially with the rise in high-octane offenses in the SEC. But they’ll be vastly improved from last season (almost by default. That secondary play couldn’t get much worse). AND STOP WORRYING ABOUT THE QUARTERBACK SITUATION! It’s a fun conversation, I get that (hell, that conversation is what helps pay my bills), but it’ll be okay, I promise.

I know it’s tough to imagine A.J. McCarron as a kid that didn’t seem to fit the part at the time, but he turned out halfway decent, and the program wasn’t too shabby with him under center.