Alabama Football: What we learned from the NMSU game

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Before moving on to South Carolina, let’s review what we learned about the Alabama football team in its 62-10 win over New Mexico State.

It is tempting to look at the Alabama football game against New Mexico State and conclude not much can be learned in such a mismatch. But that is not accurate. Coaches and players learn from every game. For fans, the lessons might be less obvious, but we too can draw conclusions.

When Nick Saban said on Saturday he was not pleased, it was easy to see why. While his comments seemed to mostly apply to the Crimson Tide backups, we all saw weaknesses in some of the starters as well.

Thinking back to last season, Nick Saban often described Alabama football (especially the defense and special teams) as a work in progress. He could be using the phrase again this season. Last season’s ‘work in progress’ became the most explosive offense in Crimson Tide history. Along the way, fans during the 2018 season kept claiming Saban had fielded his best-ever team.

The team turned out not to be that. We are months away from knowing what this season’s team will become. But there is value in that unknown, that lack of assurance a team is destined for greatness. It makes players hungrier to prove themselves and less vulnerable to complacency.

On Saturday, as the Crimson Tide dispensed with a far inferior team, what did we learn about the 2019 Alabama Crimson Tide?

  • The Alabama football staff used 67 players in the game. Two other numbers stick out. Fifteen of those players are true freshmen. Six of them started the game. As we knew before and as it becomes more obvious each week, the 2019 Crimson Tide is a very young team. It will need more time than normal to mature and develop. The six true freshmen starters were Evan Neal on offense and Will Reichard at placekicker. On defense, they were D.J. Dale, Shane Lee, Christian Harris and Jordan Battle.
  • Eight defensive linemen played. Backing up Dale, Raekwon Davis and LaBryan Ray were Phidarian Mathis, Byron Young, Christian Barmore, Stephon Wynn and Tevita Musika. Based on two weeks of play, Mathis, Young and Barmore are where the coaches are looking for depth. Young had the most snaps Saturday in the group of backups. When healthy, Justin Eboigbe is expected to join the rotation. An early guess is the core this season will be the three starters, plus Mathis, Young, Barmore and Eboigbe.
  • At linebacker, the only true freshman other than the starters who saw action was outside linebacker, King Mwikuta. Terrell Lewis and Chris Allen rotated and neither played very many snaps. The backup inside linebackers, Markail Benton, Jaylen Moody and Ale Kaho did not get much action. None of the three appeared to be close to prepared if an injury happens to Lee or Harris.
  • The offensive line of Leatherwood, Neal, Dickerson, Womack and Wills still had some problems getting a push. A few times they got pushed back into Tua. Improvement is needed.
  • Sophomore punter, Skyler DeLong averaged 41 yards on his three punts.
  • Will Reichard was superb with kickoff and field goal duties.
  • Does the Tide have a running back problem? We don’t know but a guess is true freshman Keilan Robinson may be getting some more snaps.

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Next. What is next in 2020 recruiting?. dark

Check in with Bama Hammer this week for new recruiting information. Cornerback prospect, Joel Williams will announce on Sept. 9 and is expected to choose the Crimson Tide.