Observations and notes: Michigan
The Crimson Tide made quick work of Michigan on Saturday evening in front of more than 90,000 fans inside Cowboys Stadium. Alabama displayed confidence and determination, a characteristic eerily similar to what the Tide put forth in the BCS National Championship Game in January. Below are a few observations from the Tide’s first game.
Fowler a major factor on offense
Junior running back Jalston Fowler has a chance to be one of the Tide’s most valuable assets in 2012. Fowler spent much of the evening working in a number of different roles in the Alabama offense. During fall camp, reporters saw Fowler work on his own as a fullback and with the H-backs.
On Saturday night, the Tide used Fowler as a fullback in the I-formation, one the Tide has not used much at all during head coach Nick Saban’s tenure in Tuscaloosa. His ability to create running lanes as a lead blocker made a major difference in the running game, and specifically, freshman T.J. Yeldon’s ability to create positive plays on the ground.
Fowler was also utilized as a running back throughout the course of the game. With Eddie Lacy having to share time with three other capable backs, Fowler was able to take eight carries on the evening. He tallied 67 yards and averaged 8.4 yards per carry.
Milliner a strong link in Alabama secondary
Senior cornerback Dee Milliner entered the spring as the Crimson Tide’s most experienced cornerback. That experience was evident against Michigan.
For reasons unbeknownst to even the wisest person, Michigan tried to pick on Milliner time and time again during the first half of the Tide’s season opener. Each time Denard Robinson tried to find his receiver being covered by Milliner. Each time it was unsuccessful.
His performance was so great that he was named the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week on Sunday afternoon. Milliner had four pass breakups, four tackles and an interception.
Minor injuries sustained on Alabama defense
Throughout much of the second half safety Nick Perry played quality time in the Alabama secondary. Perry was listed as the second strong safety when the Alabama two-deep depth chart was released, but when senior Robert Lester went down with a shoulder injury, Perry was inserted into the game.
Head coach Nick Saban said during his post game press conference that Lester only had a shoulder stinger. Barring any unforeseen setbacks, a stinger should not be an injury that would prevent Lester from contributing in the Tide’s next game against Western Kentucky.
Nose guard Jesse Williams also left the game and was taken to the locker room after taking a blow to the head in a pile fighting to make a tackle. Williams sustained a mild concussion and was replaced by Brandon Ivory.
Ivory did a good job of exploding off the ball and meeting the Michigan running backs at the point of attack. Williams is obviously the Tide’s favorite and most talented player at the position, but should his concussion symptoms linger, Ivory is a viable replacement and would be more than serviceable against Western Kentucky if Williams needs a week to heal.
Trey DePriest and Reggie Ragland both sustained sprained ankles. All of the Tide’s injured players will likely wear black, no-contact jerseys during practice this week.
Punting is better than expected
Cody Mandell has been a bit of an assumed weakness for the Alabama Crimson Tide over the course of his career at Alabama. His ability to angle punts in certain situations has been great, but his distance punting has been average at best.
During the Tide’s annual A-Day game he drilled a few punts that made fans inside Bryant-Denny Stadium give him a round of applause. If he continues punting like he did on Saturday night, fans will have that same reaction a few more times this season.
Mandell punted the ball four times for 188 yards, pinned Michigan inside the 20-yard line twice and even drilled a 59-yard punt. He averaged 47 yards a punt, but that number was largely impacted by the field position the Tide had before calling him onto the field.
Barrett Jones on the offense’s performance: “We left a lot of points out there tonight. I’m not trying to be arrogant or cocky, but that’s just how we’re trained to think. It felt like we kinda had a lull there in the middle where we just kinda stopped attacking. We’ve got a lot of work to do to fix that.”
Barrett Jones on the win: “It shows the nation that this isn’t the complacent Alabama that people were expecting. We’re hungry and we’re coming for another national championship.”
Chance Warmack on T.J. Yeldon: “I think everyone on the team knew what he was capable of — he proved that in the spring game. He was just ready to let it loose today. I’m excited, I’m happy for him.”
Nico Johnson: “Everybody is more hungry. I think we’re more hungry than last year’s team.”
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