What to watch for: Arkansas
When Alabama takes the field in Fayeteville on Saturday afternoon the lineup will likely look a bit closer to what it was in the season opener. With injured guys returning to the starting lineup, the Tide will be a lot closer to full strength than it was against Western Kentucky. That’s a good thing, because the Razorbacks are not a team to be taken lightly.
Fresh off a loss to Lousiana-Monroe, the Razorbacks will assuredly be ready to turn over a new leaf on Saturday. The question is, will the leaf be a continuation of what transpired against the Warhawks, or will head coach John L. Smith get the Razorbacks back on the right track.
Williams in the middle
Senior nose guard Jesse Williams missed the game against Western Kentucky after a headache caused the coaching and medical staffs to sit him for precautionary reasons. Williams sustained a concussion against Michigan and missed a good portion of the second half.
This week, Williams has been leading the defensive line through drills during the media observation period and, barring any setbacks, will take the field as the starter in the middle once again.
Williams’ explosiveness off the ball and ability to command a double team is something that the defensive line values in passing situations. With the Tide taking on an Arkansas team that utilizes a pass heavy offense, Williams’ commanding of the double team will be needed.
Should Williams be held out again, Brandon Ivory will be his likely replacement. Ivory has surprised during the first two games as a capable plug in the middle of the line. Ivory has displayed good speed, something that Barrett Jones noted last week that might come as a surprise to many. Ivory has fought hard to find playing time and so far he has made the most of it. Should Williams sit, he’ll likely continue to take advantage of his opportunities.
Dee in the back
The Alabama secondary saw a lot of new faces against Western Kentucky. The Tide used Nick Perry as a safety in the base defense and also started John Fulton instead of Dee Milliner. Milliner was prepared to play after straining a hip flexor last Wednesday, but after warmups he didn’t feel fit enough to perform.
Against the Razorbacks, having Dee in the secondary will be a necessary component of the Alabama defense. While Fulton is capable, the invaluable experience Milliner brings to the boundaries as the Tide’s most seasoned cornerback is something Alabama will need should Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson take the field.
Pass protection is key to Alabama success
Western Kentucky got to AJ McCarron six times during the Tide’s home opener last Saturday. Whether it was off the right side of the line or after McCarron had been flushed from the pocket, the Hilltoppers found a way to get to the quarterback and disrupt the passing game.
Against Arkansas, a seasoned defensive team that plays in arguably the best defensive conference in the nation, that cannot happen. Protection is assuredly something that has been stressed in practice this week, and it will be key to Alabama’s success on Saturday. If the line cannot shore up its pass protection, McCarron could be in for a long day.
“You get a little behind in the down because the guy beat you and you didn’t play the right way, you don’t give yourself the best chance to be successful. On several occasions that is what happened,” head coach Nick Saban said during his Monday press conference. “It is something that we have to get corrected; our guys have to pay more attention to detail, focus on doing the little things right. You don’t get re-dos so, when the quarterback gets hit that is not ever good. We just need to do a better job in that regard all the way around.”
Running backs have an opportunity to rise to the occasion
It’s no secret that Alabama’s group of running backs is among the most talented in the nation. With the loss of Jalston Fowler, the Tide may have lost a talented body that contributed quality minutes to the offense, but that doesn’t mean the Tide’s running game will suffer.
Fowler played a variety of roles, and perhaps the role that will miss him the most is the fullback spot. Senior Kelly Johnson is Fowler’s replacement and will be relied upon to create lead blocks and running lanes for the rest of the Alabama backfield. Behind Johnson will be four hungry, capable running backs.
The coaching staff already knows what Lacy and Yeldon can do, but the Tide has yet to see Dee Hart and Kenyan Drake break out of the backfield and create an uproar for opposing defenses. Drake displayed flashes of what he is capable of against Western Kentucky when he scampered in for his first-career score, but against an SEC defense it won’t be nearly as easy.
Fowler’s absence will give Drake and Hart a chance to show the coaching staff what they are capable in a game setting as they vie for more playing time.
About The Author
Leave a Comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.