Alabama Football: Hump week for the Crimson Tide

Alabama Football: It has been ‘Hump Week’ for Crimson Tide players.

On Wednesday, Alabama football coach, Nick Saban said his Tide team needs to “improve” this week. Given every practice and every rep is about improvement, Saban’s challenge is not new. More than anything it indicates position groups need to jell. The most obvious ones are the secondary and both the scrimmage lines.

The path to success is ones vs. ones in tough, physical, practice sessions. Repeat enough individual competitions and the confrontations will reveal the best players. Nick Saban has always used this approach. It is the reason many former Alabama football players say, compared to practices, games are easier.

In the old days, the physical, one-on-one battles in the trenches were referred to as ‘slobber-knockers.’ In a college football world threatened by a virus, any such references are inappropriate. The idea, however, remains the same as Saban’s game edict – dominate the man in front of you until he quits.

Players don’t quit on an Alabama football practice field. Unless they are giving up on themselves and the team. Rather, consistent dominance determines player roles. In this last week, before game weeks begin, one priority is finding the fifth offensive line starter. Saban will get the five best on the field. At what position is the question.

On Wednesday, Saban said he considers the offensive line having seven starters. Along with Leatherwood, Neal, Dickerson and Brown, the other three are Emil Ekiyor, Chris Owens and Darrian Dalcourt. So far, only two of them are proven at tackle. Within the group or from some of the younger players, two solid backup tackles are needed.

To prove themselves during this week’s practice, the offensive line must battle an improved Crimson Tide defensive line. The situation is different on the defensive side of the line. Three best is not enough. Six to eight rotating players are needed. One of them, Christian Barmore has not been able to work this week. Recovering from a ‘minor’ knee injury, Barmore might return to practices next week.

The touted Alabama football offensive line will challenge their defensive counterparts. With the healthy returns of D.J. Dale and LaBryan Ray and the emergence of Justin Eboigbe, the defensive front should be a worthy match. Much attention will be given to the d-line backups, Phidarian Mathis, Byron Young, Ishmael Sopsher and Braylen Ingraham, along with Barmore.

The Crimson Tide secondary is more unsettled. This week’s practices will define if next week, Nick Saban relies less on dime formations and more on nickel. There is plenty of ongoing competition, but the biggest questions are the Star and Money positions. DeMarcco Hellams, Brian Branch and Malachi Moore are the top contenders to gain the two starting roles. Marcus Banks and Ronald Williams are also in the mix.

Check out Wednesday’s review by Saban.

Next: Drill down on the Missouri Tigers

In COVID news, Missouri is expected to have at least 12 players miss the opening game. Now relying on daily testing, the Alabama football team currently expects no players to miss the game.