Online Now 304

Monday Morning Thoughts

We get the week started with some commentary from former Alabama offensive guard Griff Redmill, a three-year starter for the Crimson Tide from 1998-2000, before mixing in some position grades and opinions on other topics around college football.

Lindsay made his fourth start of the season at center against Auburn.

Reier: Considering that AU went 81 yards without throwing a pass, I thought Auburn's touchdown drive before halftime was as big as anything that happened in the fourth quarter. What did you see as the turning point in the game?

Redmill: That drive was definitely huge. I also felt when they stopped us on fourth-and-1 it was a big confidence booster for Auburn.

Reier: Wasn't crazy about the play call, but given that UA only needed a half yard, I didn't really have a problem with the decision to go there. How about you?

Redmill: I thought we should have gone for it there. It was one of those moments where I felt like we'd start to put them away if we got seven points. Obviously, it had an opposite effect.

Reier: You look at the stat sheet and it reads that UA rushed for 218 yards in the game. Those short yardage failures, though, made it feel like a lot less. I imagine coming up short in those situations really hit linemen where it hurts because they want to go there as much as anyone, right?

Redmill: That definitely is a sore spot for offensive linemen. Every man that plays on the offensive line believes the offense can get a couple of yards behind him when needed. Knowing the running backs we have, that has to be a frustrating stat from Saturday night.

Reier: From your vantage point, did the switch at center from an injured Ryan Kelly back to Chad Lindsay produce any noticeable differences in the play of the line?

Redmill: I thought Lindsay blocked well. The low snaps were probably a bigger issue than most people realize. They can break the rhythm for the quarterback in his read progression.

Reier: Little surprised that the linemen on the field goal unit ran at Chris Davis on the return. Seems like you'd be better off spreading out and waiting on him to come to you. Guess that goes back to the rare nature of the situation; just don't work on that a lot.

Redmill: That whole play surprised me. My first thought was, there are two things more likely to happen here than us making a 57-yarder. First, a possible return of a short kick and second, a block-kick-scoop-and-score. When Davis brought it out, I thought, we can't cover it.

Reier: The 1999 team lost an Orange Bowl game to Michigan in an overtime game that ended with a missed extra point. Fans focus on the kicker, but do players and coaches look at it differently as far as missed opportunities go?

Redmill: It's easy for even the players to fall into that blame game trap. It's so easy to point to one, two or three plays and make that guy the reason for a loss. But the coaches and team leaders have to remind the others that it's a team game and there were 95 other plays that could have helped us win.

Reier: The internet was around in the late 1990's but social media wasn't. How do you think you would have handled twitter and facebook had they been around back then?

Redmill: If it were around back then, I'd like to think I would understand the relevance of it like I do today. It gives fans an avenue to connect with the players they root for. Conversely, players can cause a lot of problems for themselves by misusing it. I try to never put anything out there I might ever regret.

Reier: So what will the next few days be like for an Alabama player? From so much to do from a preparation standpoint to nothing. Has to be a strange and unwelcomed feeling.

Redmill: I'm pretty sure the coaching staff will try to get them together and make sure their heads are right after having their worlds turned upside down. Football players are creatures of habit and are in their comfort zone when they know the plan. Knowing the plan will be different the next few weeks, I imagine they'll get some deserved rest before preparation starts for their upcoming bowl game. People might remember what the talented 2010 team did to Michigan State after not making it back to the BCS Championship Game. I would expect to see a team that is similarly motivated.

2013 regular season positional grades

Quarterback: Compared to a season ago, AJ McCarron saw a slight uptick in interceptions and a decrease in touchdown passes. Still, in the biggest games of the season (Texas A&M, LSU and Auburn), the senior tossed 10 touchdown passes against zero interceptions.
Grade: A.

Running back: Fumbles were somewhat of an issue for both TJ Yeldon and Kenyan Drake (four each), but it's hard to overlook their combined totals of 1,857 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. With both set to return in 2014 and Derrick Henry and Altee Tenpenny showing promise as true freshmen, the position is in excellent hands for next season and beyond.
Grade: B+.

Tight end/H back: Not the run blocking force this unit was a season ago, although OJ Howard showed improvement in that area as the season progressed. The true freshman is easily the top receiving option Alabama has had at the position in the Nick Saban era. With Howard and Brian Vogler set to return in 2014, Alabama is set at the position for the foreseeable future. The decision of junior Jalston Fowler in regards to his future in the NFL will also impact this area.
Grade: B.

Wide receiver: Some uncharacteristic drops against Auburn served as the lone blemish for a group that featured four different receivers who caught 29 passes or more this season. Three of those receivers -- Amari Cooper, Christion Jones and DeAndrew White -- are slated to return in 2014. Their presence along with what UA returns at tight end and running back should make the transition to a new starting quarterback a bit more palatable.
Grade: A-.

Offensive line: After struggling with the transition to three new starters up front in the early stages of the season, this group went on to spearhead a rushing attack that rolled up 200 yards or more on seven different occasions. Replacing right guard Anthony Steen and (possibly) Cyrus Kouandjio won't be easy, but talented youngsters like Grant Hill and Brandon Hill are waiting in the wings and a talented 2014 recruiting haul is on the way.
Grade: B+.

Defensive line: A solid-if-not-spectacular group will lose at least one starter (Ed Stinson) with the possibility of another (Jeoffrey Pagan) departing early. The good news is that the two players -- ends A'Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen -- with the most upside in the group will be true sophomores in 2014.
Grade: B.

Linebacker: While CJ Mosley will cap his career as one of Alabama's all-time tackle leaders, his ability to play in pass coverage is what will be toughest to replace. Trey DePriest took a step forward this season and will be asked to take on more of a leadership role in 2014. More production will be needed from the Crimson Tide's outside linebackers next season.
Grade: B+.

Secondary: With Landon Collins leading the way, safety play was the clear strength for this group in 2013. HaHa Clinton-Dix is likely to turn pro, so Vinnie Sunseri's return from a knee injury will be critical to the safety position in 2014. As for corner, Alabama won 11 games despite a revolving door situation at the boundary spot. As for the nickel and dime packages, a guy I'll talk about below was one of UA's most consistent performers in the secondary and he'll be back to bolster the star and safety spots in 2014. The money position in the dime will be fine as Collins, Sunseri and Williams all have experience at the spot.
Grade: B.

Special teams: Prior to the Auburn game, this area might have graded out higher than any other aspect of the team. Four missed field goals and a game-winning field goal return for a touchdown later, it dropped a letter grade. Punter Cody Mandell was outstanding, finishing his career as one of Alabama's very best at the position. Christion Jones led the return game, putting UA in position to finish off Auburn on his final punt return of the regular season.
Grade: B+.

Coaching: While Nick Saban will be second-guessed for some of his decisions against Auburn, given the off-the-field circumstances he dealt with beginning during the off-season extending through the 2013 campaign, this was one of his better coaching jobs at UA. That said, seasons that don't end with championships at Alabama these days don't qualify for the highest grade.
Grade: B+

* Pro tip for Auburn and Ohio State fans from those of us who were around for Alabama's three-out-of-four run: Don't fret, these things have a way of sorting themselves out.

* Reports from various news outlets have Boise State's Chris Petersen and Vanderbilt's James Franklin as the two finalists for the head job at Southern California. Assuming interim head coach Ed Orgeron will maintain a spot on the coaching staff, I see him being a far better fit for the rah-rah Franklin than the milquetoast Petersen.

* Excluding Texas A&M, which joined the SEC in 2012, Auburn is the only team in the SEC West that Alabama hasn't posted three straight wins over under Saban. Meanwhile, Ole Miss and Arkansas have yet to record a victory over the Crimson Tide on Saban's watch.

* Those saying Saban is fresh out of challenges at Alabama didn't pay attention to the Crimson Tide's cornerback play this season. With Belue moving on to the NFL, Saban has plenty on his plate at the position he spends the most time with.

* You know Alabama has been in the national title hunt the last four years when you have no idea how the selection process for the other BCS games works. I'm told that in ranking in the top four of the BCS standing following this week's conference championship game, the Crimson Tide will be assured of a spot in a BCS game. So, there you go.

* Just stop with the upset scenarios that will get Alabama to Pasadena for anything other than the Rose Bowl. Duke isn't beating Florida State. Period. In getting help following November losses the last two seasons, Alabama has passed its golden horseshoe on to Auburn.

* Amazing how place kicking experts surface after missed/blocked kicks in a high profile loss. Bottom line: Cade Foster's alignment wasn't the problem against Auburn. His leg swing and finish were. If you're going to take more of a straight on approach, as Foster did this season, you have to hold your finish. On Saturday, Foster kicked "across the line" (with his kicking foot crossing over his plant foot at the finish), which resulted in a case of the lefts.

* For Alabama, the road to the BCS title game would have proven extremely tough, but I-20 East to the SEC Championship Game wasn't exactly full of potholes. The Crimson Tide faced eight SEC opponents this season who had a combined league record of 24-40.

* Remember when the star position was a bigger concern for the Alabama secondary than corner?. Well, Jarrick Williams answered any questions you might have had about star, playing as well as any Crimson Tide defensive back to see the field this season. Meanwhile, following last April's A-Day game, I figured UA had enough capable candidates to get things figured out at the corner spot opposite Belue. I was very wrong.

* According to @JayKornegay of www.thelvh.com, one-loss Alabama would still be favored over Florida State, Ohio State or Auburn in a national title game. While I get it where OSU and AU are concerned, not sure I could wager on a Crimson Tide team playing with one legit corner in a game against Florida State (assuming Jameis Winston is available, of course).

Already have an account? Sign In