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Around the SEC: Alabama

Editor’s note: Alabama kicks off part one of a 16 part series, examining every team in the SEC, plus three bonus’ with the three FBS Ole Miss non-conference games. We’ll preview one school a day, starting alphabetically with Alabama. 

2018 Season Overview:
SEC Champion
14-1, Lost to Clemson in National Championship

The Big Three:
Tua Tagovailoa, QB
Jerry Jeudy, WR
Dylan Moses, LB

It’s Alabama. It’s almost not fun to start the preview series with the SEC favorite and National Championship co-favorite, but it’s Alabama.

The Crimson Tide can retool and reload like no one else in the nation. They actually had just three first-round draft picks this past year, considerably less than normal. In total, 10 Alabama players were drafted in 2019. However, they return the most important player in the country.

With all due respect to Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is the best in the country. He’s the Vegas frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy and he’s the presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Tagovailoa came in to replace, now-Oklahoma quarterback, Jalen Hurts in the second half of the 2017 National Championship game, leading Alabama to a 26-23 comeback victory. He’s been the golden boy ever since.

However, the only thing that’s really been able to hold Tagovailoa back is himself. A bad high-ankle sprain suffered in the SEC Championship last year required a rarely done, short-term surgery that allowed him to come back and play in the College Football Playoff. But he was just not himself, as Alabama got blown out. They lost 44-16 to Clemson in the National Title game.

In a lot of ways, the end of 2018 is the Alabama Achilles heel for 2019. Tagovailoa is electric and borderline unstoppable, but he’s been proven sort of fragile. Last year, when he’s been hurt, there was a great backup solution. Now, with Jalen Hurts at Missouri, the Alabama backup job is in flux. The Crimson Tide needs a healthy Tua Tagovailoa.

When healthy, he is fully healthy by the way, Alabama should have the best offense in the nation. Not only do they have the best quarterback, they have a projected top-10 pick at receiver in Jerry Jeudy. Six of the starting 11 preseason All-SEC players on the offensive side of the ball were ‘Bama players. They’re loaded, and the defense is the Alabama defense.

Alabama’s defense will be lead from the middle. Dylan Moses and Anfernee Jennings are probably the best one-two linebacker punch in the country and they compliment each other perfectly.

Moses is more of the traditional, rangy inside linebacker that controls the defense from the middle. He had 86 tackles, 10 for a loss, last year and should take a bigger role in the defense this year. Jennings does it all. He had 5.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss last year. The weirdest Anfernee Jennings stat: he batted down 11 passes last year as an outside linebacker. That 11 passes defended put him third in the SEC independent of position. Only one other linebacker, Devin White, had more than five. White had six.

Alabama has played in every College Football Playoff since it began in 2014. Only once have they failed to make the championship game. There’s no reason, assuming Tua Tagovailoa’s health, that this year shouldn’t be more of the same for the Crimson Tide.

 

Prediction: 15-0, SEC Champion, National Champion

 


You can reach Nathanael Gabler at nathanael.gabler@oxfordeagle.com with news tips, suggestions or comments. Follow @ngabler4 on Twitter.