Alabama Football: The two most improved Crimson Tide players

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

Quietly two Alabama football players have made significant improvements this season. One is on offense and the other on defense.

Two Alabama football players are performing significantly better as the season progresses. As in, much better than when the season began. The pair being recognized does not include Mac Jones, Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith or Najee Harris. That quartet has played wonderfully beginning with the season opener.

The ‘big four’ of the Crimson Tide offense are heading to record-breaking seasons. A dive into the Alabama Crimson Tide Record Book shows new records have already been set. No Alabama football quarterback, until Mac Jones, has thrown for 400-plus yards in three consecutive games. With an average of 379.5 passing yards-per-game, Jones is ahead of pace to set the all-time, single-season record, held by Tua Tagovailoa of 317.4 yards. Mac is also tracking toward setting a new Crimson Tide single-season completion percentage record.

Devonta Smith already owns some Crimson Tide receiving records. Smitty could easily set more. He is well within reach of the Tide’s career receiving touchdowns, just five short of tying Amari Cooper. Jaylen Waddle is ahead of pace for two receiving records. The two are held by Jerry Jeudy and Ozzie Newsome for average yards-per-reception for a season and a career.

Those stats are impressive but are not big surprises. The talents of Waddle and Smith have been long recognized. Mac’s performance is a small surprise but his strong production began in the season-opener.

Two Alabama football players are only now gaining appreciation for this season’s play. During his career, tight end Miller Forristall has been a competent player. He is not a physical blocker that can dominate all his matchups. He is not a fast, quick, graceful tight end with wide receiver skills. But he is a key component in Steve Sarkisian’s offense. Miller caught 15 passes last season and started slowly this season. Against Georgia, Miller caught three passes. As the season continues, with teams focusing coverage packages to slow Waddle and Smitty, Sark is expected to use Forristall more. Nick Saban gave Miller high praise this week.

"He’s very smart. He understands exactly what his role is and exactly what he needs to do to help the offense function and has been very efficient and effective for us. I’m happy to see that he is getting more involved in the passing game, and I think that’s something that could be helpful to us in the future,"

The other Tide player showing marked improvement is Dylan Moses. Moses was expected to be the savior of the 2020 Tide defense. Fans were sure he would lead the defense from his experience and knowledge and also by example. Until the Georgia game, Moses was noticed more for what he wasn’t doing.

There is no question about Dylan’s talent, physically and mentally. He will never be faulted for his effort or toughness. In the Tide’s first three games, he just appeared slow to react, almost indecisive. He certainly did not play like the ‘Alpha-Dog’ Crimson Tide fans wanted.

Nick Saban was very satisfied with Moses in the Georgia game.

"I thought he played extremely well in this last game,” Saban said. “He showed great leadership, really helped the other players play well. I think it was by far his best game in terms of execution, doing what he was supposed to do.I feel like this will maybe get him confident, physically confident."

Full recovery from a major knee injury is not just a physical process. A player must also get his head right and it is often not easy. Dont’a Hightower had a tough time after his knee injury, but he pushed through it. It is looking like Dylan Moses will do the same. Moses is leading the Tide defense statistically. He has 37 tackles, including 19 unassisted, 4.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. A strong hunch is Dylan is close to being the player Tide fans anticipated.

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Nick Saban almost never calls out a player publicly. He also parses out praise sparingly. When he says a player played well, be assured Saban is correct.