Alabama’s offense is delivering big plays at a higher rate than ever before this season. The Crimson Tide offense has 60 plays of 10+ yards through just three games this season good for ninth in the nation.
Those 60 plays have come on 213 total offensive snaps, meaning Alabama is gaining 10+ yards of 28.2 percent of its total plays from scrimmage. The next-best number posted by Alabama’s offense since 2010 was 2013, when the Crimson Tide picked up 10 or more yards on 26.4 percent of its plays.
Over the last four seasons combined, Alabama has picked up 10 or more yards on 21.5 percent of its plays.
There have been chunk plays to start drives, like a 22-yard completion to Irv Smith Jr. in the first quarter against Arkansas State. Other big plays have finished drives, like Damien Harris’ 43-yard touchdown run against Ole Miss. Tua Tagovailoa had a 13-yard scramble on first down against the Rebels in the first quarter. Jalen Hurts had a 22-yard touchdown pass on 3rd and short in the second quarter. The gashes come from all over.
“We know that we have the ability to move the ball and make explosive plays as long as we play the way we’re used to,” Harris said.
It isn’t just one player who has accounted for most of those big plays. Harris, who is averaging 7.4 yards per carry, has four runs of 10+ yards. Fellow running back Najee Harris is fourth in the SEC with nine carries of 10+ yards despite just 30 total carries this season.
There’s also been an even balance of big plays between runs and passes. There have been 25 runs of 10+ yards on 130 total carries, or 19.2 percent. There have also been 16 completions of 20+ yards on 83 total pass attempts, or 19.3 percent.
“There’s something satisfying about a long, grinding 12-play drive where you’re just driving down their throat, but at the same time, I’m not going to be mad when Damien scampers off for a 60-yard touchdown or whatever he had or when Tua (Tagovailoa) throws a nice ball to (Jerry) Jeudy and it’s another touchdown,” left tackle Jonah Williams said.
Jeudy and wide receiver DeVonta Smith have been the most explosive wide receivers for Alabama early this year. Each have five receptions of 20+ yards. Jeudy also has two catches that have gone for more than 50 yards.
“He’s a rare talent,” Damien Harris said. “He can do it all — he’s fast, runs good routes, clean routes, he’s got great hands, super-explosive guy. But I think all of our guys are like that, we’ve got a lot of talent at the receiver position. They’re part of the reason our offense is doing so well right now.”
The offensive output may not remain at the same level all season. Some SEC defenses may be stingier than the first three opponents. Defenses may also make natural adjustments to prevent chunk plays.
But it won’t be easy. Alabama’s first drive against Ole Miss on Saturday lasted just three plays that went 17 yards, 12 yards and 43 yards for a touchdown. Two drives later there was a 79-yard touchdown pass to take the lead.
“I think that racking up points like that is kind of demoralizing for the defense and to the other team, as well,” Williams said. “Just kind of looking up at the scoreboard and saying, ‘We have a big hill to climb.’ So, I mean obviously as an O-lineman, you live for those long drives, but I think that we’ve really enjoyed the short drives, as well.”
Reach Ben Jones at email@example.com or 205-722-0196.