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Sneak Peek: The Alabama Crimson Tide

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This dynasty is far from dead

Alabama v Auburn Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be taking a quick look at every Auburn opponent on the 2020 schedule.

2019 Record: 11-2

2020 Signing Class: 2nd (2nd SEC)

Head Coach: Nick Saban (14th Season)

Key Departures:

  • QB Tua Tagovailoa - 180/252 (71.4%) 2,840 yds 33 TD 3 INT 2 rushing TD
  • WR Jerry Jeudy - 77 rec 1,163 yds 15.1 avg 10 TD
  • WR Henry Ruggs III - 40 rec 746 yds 18.7 avg 7 TD
  • RT Jedrick Wills - 1st Round Draft Pick
  • DT Raekwon Davis - 47 tackles 3.0 TFL 0.5 sacks
  • OLB Anfernee Jennings - 83 tackles 12.5 TFL 8.0 sacks IN 5 PBU FF
  • OLB Terrell Lewis - 31 tackles 11.5 TFL 6.0 sacks 2 PBU FR
  • CB Trevon Diggs - 37 tackles 0.5 TFL 3 INT 8 PBU TD 2 FR TD
  • S Xavier McKinney - 95 tackles 5.5 TFL 3.0 sacks 3 INT 5 PBU TD FR 4 FF

Key Returners:

  • QB Mac Jones (RJr) - 97/141 (68.8%) 1,503 yds 14 TD 3 INT rushing TD
  • RB Najee Harris (Sr) - 209 carries 1,224 yds 5.9 avg 13 TD 27 rec 304 yds 11.3 avg 7 TD
  • WR Devonta Smith (Sr) - 68 rec 1,256 yds 18.5 avg 14 TD
  • WR Jaylen Waddle (Jr) - 33 rec 560 yds 17.0 avg 6 TD
  • LT Alex Leatherwood (Sr)
  • LB Dylan Moses (Sr) - 86 tackles 10.0 TFL 3.5 sacks PBU FF
  • CB Patrick Surtain Jr (Jr) - 42 tackles TFL 2 INT 8 PBU FR 3 FF

Preview

2019 was the first time the Alabama Crimson Tide were not in the College Football Playoffs. It was the first 2 loss regular season since 2010. An eight game win streak over LSU was snapped and the Tide lost their 2nd Iron Bowl in three years. Dynasty dead right?

Uh.... Probably not...

While it’s been a whopping TWO years since Nick Saban has caressed that national championship trophy in his less than average sized arms, Alabama is still one of the top contenders heading into the 2020 campaign. The Tide, per usual, lost a slew of talented players to the NFL but more returned than expected. Granted, it wasn’t like a domino type of return but enough to easily slide Alabama into the #1 or #2 spot on your preseason rankings list.

Two time Iron Bowl loser and “generational” quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is now a Miami Dolphin but touchdown maker Mac Jones returns. The junior QB performed admirably in Tua’s stead including tossing six touchdowns in the Iron Bowl. Granted, two were to the Tigers but that’s still some big time production returning.

But his spot is far from secure. Once again, Alabama has stolen away a “generational” 5-star QB from the USC Trojans. Bryce Young finished ranked #2 overall by 247 Composite and looks poised to compete for the starting role. The lack of spring ball makes it unlikely he will be the day 1 starter but Nick Saban has shown in the past he’s not afraid to make a change if he feels one is necessary. Just ask Kirby Smart. I still think Jones ends up being the starter for the whole season but it’s a nice problem to have in Tuscaloosa.

Whomever is quarterback will be surrounded by weapons. Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs are gone but Devonta Smith, Najee Harris and Jaylen Waddle all return. Getting both Smith and Harris back might have been the best recruiting job Saban’s staff did this offseason. The duo combined to score 34 touchdowns last fall. Auburn fans are also well aware of Waddle’s talent. Who emerges behind this trio will be interesting to see. John Metchie is a name to watch at wideout while former 5-star running back Trey Sanders is healthy and looks poised to be the Tide’s #2 back.

Weapons are great but even better for Alabama’s new starting QB is that four members of last year’s outstanding offensive line return. Jedrick Wills departed to the NFL but Alex Leatherwood, Evan Neal, Landon Dickerson and Deonte Brown all return. There’s a good chance Neal slides out to right tackle opening the door for Emil Ekiyor at left guard. Right guard Deonte Brown might be the best interior OL in college football this fall. He’s the only man I saw win more than he lost against Derrick Brown in 2019.

The Tide’s offense was elite again in 2019 but that was not the case on defense. Auburn’s rushing attack was unable to average 3 yard a carry against Minnesota but shredded this Bama front 7 for over 5 yards a pop and 2 scores. A big reason for those struggles were the amount of injuries to that group. Alabama was forced to start three true freshman in the Iron Bowl and it showed. But now that group has some legit experience and a number of those talented defenders return in 2020. Alabama’s defense should take a major step forward this fall.

There are plenty of studs on this Alabama defensive line but the name to watch is Christian Barmore. In only a limited number of snaps he finished 5th on the team in tackles for loss. Phidarian Mathis, LaBryan Ray, DJ Dale and host of other formerly highly ranked prospects are all back as well. I expect the Tide’s front to be much sturdier in 2020.

The biggest area of improvement though will likely be at linebacker. As true freshman, Christian Harris and Shane Lee took their lumps while also flashing big time potential. Now Dylan Moses and Josh McMillon are both back giving the Tide one of the deeper LB units in the country. On the edge, keep an eye on Louisiana native Christopher Allen. There’s excitement about his potential. Plus the Tide signed a loaded 2020 EDGE class that includes five stars Will Anderson and Drew Sanders.

On the backend, Xavier McKinney, Jared Mayden and Trevon Diggs are all gone. McKinney lead the Tide in tackles last season while also intercepting 3 passes and forcing 4 more fumbles. But none of you care about that. JUST SHOW US THE HIGHLIGHT NERD.

Shaun Shivers now possesses his soul.

Patrick Surtain is back and a number of talented athletes are joining him in the 3rd level of Bama’s defense. Josh Jobe is likely to take over the corner spot opposite of Surtain. But the man to watch back here is Jordan Battle. Alabama pumps out elite NFL safeties and he looks like the next man up.

This is an Alabama team that will be very hungry this fall. There was a feeling of disrespect when the Playoff Committee dropped them to #13 following their Iron Bowl defeat. With so much returning production back on both sides of the ball, Nick Saban’s dynasty looks far from dead. Granted, counting and kicking still jump out as major weaknesses for this squad but if they can clear those two hurtles they have a shot at winning their 575th national title.

War Eagle!