In its ugly 17-3 road win over South Florida, Alabama Football did not do a lot to stimulate the excitement of its fanbase.
One of the few bright spots in the game for the Crimson Tide was the fact that the running game came alive in the second half. As the South Florida defense began to tire and the Alabama quarterbacks struggled mightily, Bama was content to hand the ball off over and over again, typically to senior Roydell Williams. The offensive line started to open up gaping holes and the Bama backs ripped off chunks of yardage for the first time all season.
The Alabama running back room totaled 136 yards in week one against Middle Tennessee State, but that yardage came on 30 carries and was distributed amongst all five scholarship backs on the roster. Against Texas, Bama running backs tallied just 63 yards on 20 totes. In the first half against South Florida, it was more of the same. However, the running game came alive as the contest wore on, and Roydell Williams and Jase McClellan had gained over 200 yards by the time the final gun sounded in Tampa.
Williams led the way with a career-high 129 yards, with fellow senior McClellan adding 74. For the moment, it appears as though the Tide will roll with the two vets in the backfield. Still, the presence of talented youngsters like sophomore Jam Miller and freshman Justice Haynes looms in the minds of Crimson Tide fans. Miller and Haynes are considered to be higher upside backs that figure to add an element of explosiveness to the offense if they are able to break into the rotation.
As SEC play gets underway, however, it looks like the two older backs are starting to find their stride. This week against Ole Miss, Williams and McClellan must prove that their most recent performance wasn’t just the product of feasting on an inferior defense. While Pete Golding’s unit won’t be particularly elite, it will feature SEC athletes, which will be an entirely different monster from the USF defense Bama ran wild on in the second half.
Equally important (if not more so) will be the performance of the offensive line. The O-line for Alabama Football was one of the most hyped units in the nation in the preseason, but it has been wildly disappointing thus far. Did the group find its identity in the fourth quarter in Tampa, or was the success it found a brief mirage?
Alabama Football needs the running game
Obviously, Alabama has had quarterback issues. It has a stable of young quarterbacks that don’t have the experience or comfort level to carry an offense with their arms just yet.
Newly minted starter Jalen Milroe has a lot of physical gifts, but he simply doesn’t read defenses well enough at this point to be successful when put in predictable situations. Milroe was repeatedly put in such situations in the loss to Texas.
Bama’s struggles to run the ball, as well as its errors in pass protection, kept the Tide in 3rd and long all night. That is a disaster waiting to happen with a young quarterback.
The importance of establishing the run consistently cannot be overstated. The way this Alabama Football roster is structured on both sides of the ball necessitates the ability to run the ball effectively, sometimes regardless of whether or not the opponent knows it’s coming.
If it can’t find a way to assert its will against SEC competition, this offense will be one that opposing defenses prey on all season.