Big thanks to Brent Taylor from Roll Bama Roll for taking the time to answer some Iron Bowl questions before today’s big game!
1. The Tua era is over at Alabama. What now? Is this Iron Bowl a chance for Mac Jones to audition for the job next year? Or is it assumed the Tagovailoa dynasty will continue next year?
I wouldn’t call it an audition necessarily, but this game will go a long ways toward giving Mac a leg up or dropping the coaches’ confidence in him for next year. He’s a QB with very nice touch on medium-to-deep routes, especially outside the hashes, which is a valuable trait. But he’s also shown a tendency to be wildly inaccurate when pressured even slightly (whether pressure in the sense of a charging defensive lineman or pressure in that he’s thrust into playing for Tua when he wasn’t expecting it), which will be crippling if he can’t work that out. This will be our first chance to really see if he can play under pressure.
Regardless, there’s going to be a lot of eyes on Alabama’s QB battle next year. Mac will have the first shot, but Taulia Tagovailoa has shown some promise as true freshman a couple of times this year. He’s smaller than his older brother, and doesn’t have the same arm strength or touch, but he’s quicker and a better scrambler/sandlot player (think an unproven version of Johnny Manziel, without the party issues). I’m not sure his style will ever truly translate to an Alabama offense, though. The wildcard is going to be incoming freshman Bryce Young. The nation’s top QB from California has been slaughtering the best high school teams in the nation all season, throwing for more touchdowns than incompletions in many games this year. It’s always a game of roulette on whether high school skills translate to college for QBs, but Young will step on to campus with the most talent of anyone on the roster.
2. If you had to pick one of these two days to relive for eternity, which would you pick: November 26, 2010 or November 30, 2013?
2010, without hesitation. It sucked, but Alabama wasn’t winning anything huge that season anyway. And that stupid fumble that tightroped down the sideline for 30 yards for a touchback was just proof that it was futile anyway. 2013, though, was Alabama’s chance for a 3-peat championship with a veteran team. It just wasn’t right. However, I would also say we are already having to relive that 2013 game for eternity anyway. There hasn’t been a single CBS game gone by in 6 years that Gary Danielson hasn’t brought up the kick-6 in some way or another. Call it the 2:30 purgatory.
3. The Alabama receiving core might be the best single unit in the country. Where do they stand against some of the other NFL talents Alabama has had, though? Julio? Amari? Calvin? Are any one them as good as those guys, or is it the collective group that makes them so impressive?
There will never be another receiver like Julio Jones, physically speaking. Nor in his impact on the program. I think Jerry Jeudy is a very similar receiver to Amari Cooper (maybe a touch slower, but with better jukes) in that he’s got great hands and is an elite route-runner with good size. Cooper didn’t split his targets with anyone, but Jeudy has split them with 3 other talented receivers. Swap them, and I think Jeudy would have put up similar stats to Amari in 2012-2014. I also think that Jeudy, DeVonta Smith, and maybe even Jaylen Waddle are all better receivers than Calvin Ridley was. Henry Ruggs is the least refined of the four, but his ungodly speed and physical nature make him a dangerous player as well.
We’ll probably never see the like of the four playing together in college football again. My only regret is that they couldn’t get even more targets in their career than they did.
4. One month into the Oatmeal era, how are we feeling? I’ve heard Dayton has a good up-and-comer head coach, do you think Greg Byrne will go take a look at him?
That was a low blow, even for a Barner.....
Coach Oates has a major challenge ahead of him in year one. Three of the new players he added to the roster are all going to miss the season, so he’s having to rely on a small roster of players from the previous coaching regime who are still learning an entirely new system and philosophy of offense. All without a true center on the roster. It’s going to be a rocky year, but the Tide does have one of the toughest out of conference schedules in the entire nation, so the team will definitely get some leeway come March.
5. I think everyone knows the best matchup on the field is going to be the Alabama offensive line versus the Auburn defensive line. Do you expect Sark to gameplan around guys like Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson? Or do you think he’ll put his trust in Najee Harris and the OL to just get the job done?
Early on, I expect there to be a lot of jet sweeps and wide receiver screens to get the ball in the hands of Alabama’s four receivers before the Tigers have a chance to hit Mac Jones too much. If he can force Auburn to scale back on the all-out pressure they’ll be amped up on at the start of the game, he’ll start working in Najee Harris to gash you for 7 yards at a time before suddenly unleashing a deep shot. That’s how he’s schemed things up in Mac Jones’ two starts so far. But if Auburn shuts down that initial horizontal passing game, I’m honestly not sure how Sark will respond. I will say, though, his response to that will really earn his salary.
6. Eat shit and die. You don’t have to answer that, one of our other contributors just wanted it to be said.
Wait, is that cow farts I hear squeaking from across the state?
7. What’s caused the decline in this year’s defense versus previous years? Is it only the linebacker injuries, or is there some other Inside Baseball reason fans of other teams wouldn’t necessarily know?
I don’t think there’s any one reason. The injuries have been huge. Two middle linebackers (one an All-American, the other a senior), the three top defensive linemen, and then the 4th defensive lineman for good measure all being injured can really cause some issues. Against the annual cupcake last week, Alabama actually had 5 freshman (only one was redshirt freshman) in the center of their defensive front. Throw in a 5-star running back going down with a knee injury before the season and now Tua Tagovailoa, it’s really felt like the entire universe has been against us this year.
But back to the defense, Alabama also lost two players who declared for the draft early despite being unpolished 5th round picks last season, hurting depth even more. And then we’re on our 3rd defensive coordinator in as many years, and Pete Golding is a young, unproven guy. Throw in two major recruiting misses in Eyabi Anoma and Antonio Alfano (both 5-star pass rushers that transferred out within a year.... just a few months for Alfano...), and there’s been absolutely no stability in any facet on defense for three years now, and even Alabama can’t sustain success in that environment.
8. What’s your honest opinion on Georgia? Cute little brother trying to be just like you, even if he never will be? Or annoying, entitled little shit that won’t shut up?
Mostly the second. They’re annoying, annually overrated, and always copying everything Saban does, but at the very least they’re good for choking away a game when we need at the most. That said, I do really appreciate them for doing their part in hating Auburn. Some things just really have a way of bringing people together.