Alabama Football: What I Learned Watching The Tide Beat Wisconsin


With each passing week, we’ll learn more about the 2015 Alabama football squad. We’ll spot trends as they emerge and puzzle at both the positive and negative outliers.

In this weekly feature, I’ll highlight a handful of the lessons I learned while watching Alabama beat Wisconsin

Not settled but stable – According to coach Saban, Alabama’s starting quarterback job remains officially open, but that should not be a point of concern for Tide fans. Based on what we saw Saturday night in Arlington, the Tide has two starter quality signal callers, each capable of leading Alabama to success. Jacob Coker displayed poise and a touch on his short passes that he lacked a year ago. Meanwhile, Cooper Bateman was fluid, quick, and accurate when his ticket was punched in the third quarter. Watch for both players to contribute but in a manner that signals an unofficial pecking order.

Offensive Firepower – The range and diversity of weapons available to the Alabama offensive coaching staff are off the charts outstanding. Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake are known commodities from the running back position and both demonstrated why future opponents should take note. However, in the passing game, nine players wearing Crimson caught passes and seven had more than one reception. At times on Saturday, the Tide’s offense almost made it look too easy against Wisconsin and as the unit rounds into form, that could emerge as a theme for the season.

Defensive Secondary – Rome is not burning, nor is the Tide secondary. Everyone wants to be the first with the “hot sports take” that the Tide secondary has not improved over year’s past. That, not to put too fine a point on it, is lazy analysis. Alabama’s secondary is laden with highly ranked cornerbacks. In other words, the Tide features one of the most athletic defensive backfields in the nation. It’s also a young unit in transition. The Saban base features 2 converted corners at the safeties alongside a red-shirt freshman corner seeing his first action. The nickel package adds a true freshman and the dime mixes in a junior whose role only started to expand late in the 2014 campaign due to injury. With only one game under their belt, harsh judgment is best held for a unit that promises to yield visible week to week improvement.

Genius Schedule Makers – If awards are given for schedule makers, the Tide’s activity director is the leader in the clubhouse. Wisconsin offered the Tide a name brand program with a top 20 ranking from a conference with a penchant for chirping at the SEC. Meanwhile, the Badger’s run game mentality played right into the Tide’s core strength. Here I go again with my fine points, but for all the circumstance the Badgers brought with them, they were never a threat to challenge the game’s outcome.

Oct 11, 2014; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Dakota Ball (94) prepares to guard Arkansas Razorbacks widereceiver Marty Murad (15) during a game at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Alabama defeated Arkansas 14-13. Mandatory Credit: Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

But wait, there’s more – In week two, the Tide faces a junior league spread offense in MTSU. Here again, and with risk of drawing the ire of coach Saban, the outcome of this game is not in question. Yes, these Tigers can score points and the Alabama defense can certainly be situationally exposed and even embarrassed if it doesn’t come ready to play, but this is juggling dull knives, nothing is fatal. Chalk up another one to the thoughtful schedule makers.

This one I’ll give you for free – Wanna brag to your buds about a dark horse who promises to make an outsized contribution to the Tide’s success? I’m not talking about the next Amari Cooper, but a guy who is already lining up all over the field and should have had at least one touchdown on Saturday. Then look no further than Dakota Ball. The converted defensive end displayed his wares all over the field and at least twice was wide open, including once in the back of the end zone and in the run game he was a physical blocker.

Check back next week as I continue to track these and new items as they emerge from the field. Also, be sure to check out our podcasts as I explore and debate these topics and many more in a more animated format.