Alabama Football Secondary: B
The Alabama secondary hasn’t been perfect this year, but it has vastly improved from last season. The group has been good against the pass and even better in run support.
In Bryant-Denny Stadium, Joe Milton played what was arguably his best game of the season. The veteran threw some impressive balls on his way to 330 yards of total offense, adding two touchdown passes and no interceptions.
Tennessee receivers Squirrel White and Ramel Keyton came to play as well, and won some pro-level battles against the Alabama defensive backs. The pair combined to make 15 catches for 182 yards and a touchdown.
Even with Milton and the Volunteer pass-catchers bringing their best, the Bama defense held the passing game to 6.6 yards per attempt and ultimately won the war.
The Bama safeties continue to be consistent contributors all over the field. True freshman Caleb Downs (nine tackles), senior Jaylen Key (seven tackles), and senior Malachi Moore (five tackles), have all been standouts throughout the season.
Cornerbacks Terrion Arnold (four tackles, one TFL) and Kool-Aid McKinstry (two tackles, one pass breakup) are a shutdown tandem and rarely allow anything easy. Arnold left the game in the first half with what Nick Saban called “a slight concussion” and did not return.
One of the unsung heroes of this game was transfer corner Trey Amos. Amos stepped up in place of Arnold, and the Bama defense did not lose a step. Amos recorded one tackle and one PBU, but largely deterred Milton from even looking his way as he smothered Tennessee receivers time and time again.
Alabama Football Special Teams: B
The Alabama special teams were a general strength once again. Will Reichard boomed two more field goals through the uprights as Bama made its comeback in the second half, including a 50-yarder.
James Burnip averaged 43.6 yards on his five punts, and pinned the Vols inside the 20-yard line twice.
The weak link of the special teams is the punt return unit. Kool-Aid McKinstry remains increasingly hesitant to field punts unless he is all alone, and cost Alabama dozens of yards in field position as a result.
On one particular play, he side-stepped the ball after having already signalled for a fair catch. The punt took a massive Tennessee bounce, traveling 71 yards in total and pinning Alabama inside its own 5-yard line at a critical juncture in the game.
Many fans have called for Kool-Aid to be replaced as punt returner, and this is an issue Alabama should have fixed coming out of the bye week.
Overall, this Alabama Football defense is the best it has fielded in several years. While it has lapses in focus for brief stretches, it is typically very stout and has completely shut down some pretty good offenses. It’s effort against the Tennessee running game may be its most impressive performance yet.