Alabama Football: Tide Championship hopes ride on health of 10 players

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

One game into the Alabama football season, the Tide is healthy. Ten guys need to stay that way for Championship hopes.

For Alabama football, it is one down and nine to go to determine if Championship hopes lead to 11, 12 or 13 games. Injuries derailed the Alabama football team last season. An extended preseason and an opening game leave Nick Saban’s team in nearly complete health. The only serious injury to Ronald Williams’ arm will cause him to miss several games.

Otherwise, there are nicks and bruises, but nothing serious. Christian Barmore missed the opener with a minor knee injury but should play against the Aggies. Evan Neal left the Missouri game with a minor injury but returned later.

Football teams rarely make it through a season without some, major player injuries. Alabama football fans like to think after last season’s injuries to team leaders Dylan Moses and Tua Tagovailoa, such bad luck would not descend again the following year. A basic interpretation of the laws of probability shows fate is far too fickle to work that way. The Alabama Crimson Tide could lose as many or more key players in 2020 as it did in 2019.

Coaches know the only protection is an experienced roster with sufficient depth in every position group. Nick Saban would quickly agree the Crimson Tide is not there yet. Reaching such a depth plateau will be harder in 2020 than most seasons. A big reason is COVID and the potential, unpredictable impact of player quarantines. A second reason is the SEC all-conference schedule.

There are no early games against weaker foes in 2020. Typically, those games against weaker FBS teams and a November one against an FCS opponent were important to player development. The Crimson Tide schedule includes only one game anywhere close to playing a Kent State or Georgia State. That game being the last of the regular season against Arkansas.

Many Alabama football fans hoped Paul Tyson would get more game experience (after Bryce Young) in the Missouri game. But Young, also needing playing experience, kept Tyson off the field.

A Tide quarterback injury could probably be sustained without crushing title chances. The same cannot be said at other positions. The five offensive guys the Crimson Tide cannot afford to lose to injury are Alex Leatherwood, Evan Neal, Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith and Landon Dickerson. ‘Next Man Up’ will not cut it for those five key players.

Some Tide fans might add Najee Harris. His loss would be huge, but running back by committee, as his replacement could be adequate. So far, there is not an adequate backup at center or either tackle. The drop-off is not slight. Every Alabama football fan realizes it would be a disaster if Waddle or Smitty are lost.

The same dangers of loss apply to five Alabama Crimson Tide defenders. They are Dylan Moses, Patrick Surtain II, Jordan Battle, Daniel Wright and Will Anderson. Josh Jobe could be added to this list, in place of Daniel Wright. He isn’t because the staff has confidence in Marcus Banks as a backup corner. Solid backup safeties may be available later in the season, but until then, there are not good options after Battle and Wright. Including a true freshman is unusual but already in one game, Will Anderson has shown himself as an attacking and disruptive defensive component. Losing LaBryan Ray and D.J. Dale (like last season) would be tough, but the Tide has the d-line depth to survive.

Next. Ranking Saban's Top Tide QBs. dark

Losing any of the 10 guys to injury is frightful. Losing two, three, or more would be devastating.