Alabama football has won the SEC title for the past three seasons. Here’s why the Crimson Tide will take home the title once again in 2017.
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After winning SEC title after SEC title, the 2017 season will be no different for Alabama. Nick Saban recruited the top class in the nation and the team will have plenty of talent at both wide receiver and at running back.
In 2016, Alabama won the SEC Championship because of the team’s defense. A big part of the defense was Alabama’s ability to completely shut down the opposing team’s running game. Bear in mind Clemson only rushed for 91 yards against Alabama. Clemson’s passing game was the key to defeating Alabama. In 2017, Alabama will once again be strong up front on the defensive line.
In 2015, Alabama’s offense played a much bigger role in the team capturing the SEC Championship. Running back Derrick Henry had a Heisman-winning season. Alabama’s secondary running back Kenyan Drake returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown during the National Championship win. Additionally, Drake rushed for 408 yards during the season. Alabama eased Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris into the running back stable. Similarly, Alabama will have plenty of talent and depth at running back in 2017.
Alabama has trotted out a new quarterback since A.J. McCarron left the school in 2013. In 2017, Alabama returns Jalen Hurts at quarterbacks. Hurts developed during the 2016 season and will continue to develop during the 2017 season. His development should help Alabama continue to be one of the best teams in the SEC.
Alabama should win the SEC yet again in 2017 for five main reasons. Let’s take a close look.
Oct 1, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Calvin Ridley (3) catches a pass against Kentucky Wildcats at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Crimson Tide defeated Kentucky 34-6. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
5. Wide receivers
It says a lot about Alabama’s depth at wide receiver that T.J. Simmons announced he is transferring to West Virginia and the news was received to lukewarm attention.
Alabama lost ArDarius Stewart, the team’s leading receiver in 2016.
Still, few are worried with top talents Calvin Ridley, Robert Foster and Cam Sims expected to receive starting roles.
Additionally, Alabama scored an abundance of talent at the position with the recruiting class of 2017. Jerry Jeudy is a polished five-star prospect, while Tyrell Shavers is a tall four-star recruit. Devonta Smith has excellent hands and is a dynamic playmaker who should excel with deep balls because of his speed. Finally, Alabama also landed another four-star recruit in Henry Ruggs who might be the fastest of the incoming receiver recruits.
Some pundits assumed Alabama would return to a run-heavy offense when Brian Daboll took over as offensive coordinator. However, that is a difficult notion because of Alabama’s depth at wide receiver. It seems reasonable to assume Saban sees the talent on his roster. Likely, Alabama will continue to run a balanced offense that leans more on the running game, although admittedly, Daboll will draw up plays that play to Hurts’ strengths. Having so much talent at wide receiver should prove helpful for Hurts.
Dec 3, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Florida Gators running back Jordan Scarlett (25, center) is tackled by Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93, left), linebacker Reuben Foster (10), defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne (94, second from right), and defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand (9) during the second quarter of the SEC Championship college football game at Georgia Dome. Alabama defeated Florida 54-16. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
4. Defensive line
Alabama always has one of the top defensive lines in the nation. Despite losing a significant amount of talent up front, there is still plenty of talent for Alabama in the defensive trenches.
Alabama will replace nose guard Dalvin Tomlinson with Da’Ron Payne. Payne had worked his way into a significant reserve role last season, keying the team’s run defense.
Another key backup in 2016, Da’Shawn Hand figures to step into a starting role at strongside defensive end. Hand totaled 21 tackles with two sacks in 2016.
Junior college transfer Isaiah Buggs could step in at weakside defensive end. Buggs was the No. 2 JUCO prospect in the nation according to 247Sports.
Other options include 6-foot 7-inch and 303-pound defensive end Raekwon Davis. Davis saw limited playing time in 2016. He should receive a big uptake in snaps in 2017, possibly having a chance at a starting role. Joshua Frazier and LaBryan Ray will also compete for snaps. In sum, Alabama has plenty of talent on the defensive line, despite losing key members from 2016.
Last season, the team decided to break in true freshman Jalen Hurts. Having a true freshman starter limited the offense, but when a team possesses a historically good defense, it is a reasonable sacrifice.
Now, the team can let the leash off a little. Hurts showed considerable progress over the course of the season and should continue to develop this season. With more experience, he will likely stay in the pocket longer instead of dashing forward and giving up on a play.
The last time Alabama had a returning starter at quarterback was in 2013 with A.J. McCarron. This should help new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll installing a new offense.
Furthermore, Alabama bringing in a top-40 recruit to compete for the starting position with Hurts in Tua Tagovailoa.
Apr 22, 2017; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban talks with defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt during the A-day game at Bryant Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
2. Nick Saban
After losing the National Championship in heartbreaking fashion, Alabama’s loss to Clemson clearly took a toll on Alabama head coach Nick Saban. Fans could envision him sitting in a room watching game film, glasses on, clipboard and pen in hand in the middle of the night, his wife Terry Saban urging him to come to bed.
“Just a few more notes,” he might have said.
At this point, Saban seems better equipped to handle the loss, likely because he’s gone over dozens and dozens of time how to avoid losing such a close game again. It’s hard to argue there is a better coach in all of college football, unless his name is Urban Meyer, and even then, it’s a tricky argument.
Saban masterfully built the program through recruiting and continues to dominate recruiting each year, while tirelessly keeping the talent motivated with a clear vision.
Alabama will continue to be the team to beat in the SEC as long as Nick Saban remains the program’s CEO.
Dec 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Damien Harris (34) runs the ball during the first quarter of the 2016 CFP Semifinal against the Washington Huskies at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports
1. Running back depth
Alabama has an embarrassment of riches at the running back position. Is there any other school that can say they have four five-star running backs? Last season, three seemed a lot. True freshman Brian Robinson is a four-star recruit.
Given the injuries Bo Scarbrough has endured, and the injuries sustained by the running backs as a unit last season, having a surplus is a big advantage. However, not many teams are afforded such an advantage.
Assuming good health, Alabama will likely give the majority of carries to Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough. Najee Harris will receive carries but probably a modest amount, similar to Derrick Henry in his true freshman season.
Sophomore B.J. Emmons rounds out the team’s five-star recruits. Emmons was plagued by injuries last season. He should receive some carries and will likely be given a bigger chance to make major contributions as a special teams returner—either kick or punt.