Alabama football could possibly need more depth than ever this fall
No one knows what Alabama football will be like this fall. Yhat is because no one knows what will happen with COVID-19. The only worthwhile opinions are those by medical experts and other professionals who readily admit possible scenarios are speculation. It is possible, before the season’s first game week, virus risk is so minimal, few precautions need be taken.
Social media is filled with claims. Some of them are fact-based. Many are not. Not everyone is heeding suggested cautions from medical experts. Being careful or careless is even being considered by some as a political statement.
Universities cannot afford to be anything but careful. Attorneys believe liability waivers will soon become common and used by many entities. The current use of waivers required of returning athletes, may or may not be enforceable. Greater risk for every program is potentially being found negligence in protecting the health of its athletes. Even if not found civilly liable, the school’s reputation would be damaged. Recruits and their families might look elsewhere.
To date, and into the coming weeks and perhaps months, being careful means frequent testing of athletes and stringent quarantines for all those testing positive. Until a clear majority of medical experts decide otherwise, quarantines must be required for asymptomatic and symptomatic cases.
In some states, there is justified optimism the virus can be managed or will mostly fade away. That is is not true in every state. The 14-day average for new, daily cases shows more than a 100 percent increase in seven states. Florida is the second-highest at 141 percent. Alabama is at 109 percent.
No one is pleased by such news. Alabama football and other Tide sports may cause more displeasure by imposing restrictions on players, coaches, staff and fans. It is believed the Alabama Athletic Department has more than a handful of contingency plans.
The Alabama football staff must be doing the same. They must plan for potential quarantines throughout the 2020 season. Due to quarantine potential, more depth than a usual season must be developed. The depth of game-ready players will have to reach into the third-team of every position group.
If during the season, a first or second-team player tests positive, the third-team guy becomes important. And assuming frequent testing, third-teamers must be ready on a 48-hour or less notice to move up the depth chart for a game. Backups down the depth chart will need more practice reps than normal. If the quarantined player or players includes a starter(s), game plans may have to suddenly change.
Alabama football is deeper than most teams. But it is not so, at every position. No team is. Even with his passion for detail, Nick Saban may not have a plan for everything in 2020.
Readers can pick individual ‘what ifs’ to highlight possible risks. What if Bryce Young or Mac Jones must be quarantined and miss a big game? A game injury to the starter and suddenly Paul Tyson must carry a heavy load. The game’s outcome might be determined by his performance. At the least, in preparation for such a situation, backups may see much more game action.
A closing point to remember is the risk to staff members and coaches. Some of them are at health or age-related risk. An asymptomatic passing of the virus along to them might end badly.
For those still doubting the risk for young people, Kareem Jackson and Nick Saban beg to differ. Get your Roll Tide facemasks now just in case they are a requirement at Bryant-Denny this fall.