There has been so much debate over Alabama’s starting quarterback through the Crimson Tide’s 15 spring practices that, no matter what your perspective, you face exhaustion in arguing your point. A-Day wasn’t just a scrimmage, it was also a 50-gallon drum of jet fuel poured straight onto the hot coals of that debate. Whether that debate is settled by a transfer or by an executive order from head coach Nick Saban remains to be seen, but it’s worth reviewing A-Day from a different perspective as a reminder of what exactly is at stake.
That’s because, given the talent level at the other 10 positions, this could be one of Alabama’s all-time best modern offenses in the fall.
Before breaking that down, one has to continually define what the “modern era” on offense is. Does it go all the way back to the 1930s, when Dixie Howell and the transcendently great Don Hutson “modernized” offense in the college game? Were the wishbone attacks of the 1970s — especially 1973, although they all amassed vast rushing yardage — truly modern? Do we only look at the last 35 years?
Regardless of where you draw the line, a look at the offensive roster — some of which was on display at A-Day and some of which was sidelined — helps in understanding at least part of the passion in the quarterback debate. It’s like choosing which engine you will be putting in a Ferrari.
Running backs rarely stand out at A-Day, partly because the structure doesn’t always lend itself to cohesive blocking and partly because coaches — not just Nick Saban but most coaches — always seem intent on working on the passing game in the spring.
On Saturday, Damien Harris came as close as any Alabama to getting the senior star treatment, getting a handful of reps but exiting the stage early because the risk of injury outweighed anything Harris still has to prove. He will be a proven commodity in the fall. Najee Harris didn’t break a long run but showed his usual quickness and strength in turning potential two-yard losses into three-yard gains. And if there was a pleasant surprise, it was Tuscaloosa’s Brian Robinson, whose combination of power and speed would have him starting at half the schools in the SEC. Factor in Josh Jacobs upon his return from injury and Alabama may have a group to rival Saban’s best. (I’d stop short of saying better than any group. There are guys in the NFL, like Alvin Kamara, in his short stay, and Kenyan Drake, who never became starters at UA.)
Jerry Jeudy’s absence due to injury only made it that much more obvious that Henry Ruggs and DeVonta Smith are explosive talents in their own eight. When Jeudy and Tyrell Shavers return, there will be multiple options. (Recruiting experts also insist that signee Jalyn Waddle will be too good to leave on the bench.)
There’s a deep group at tight end as well. The offensive line has talent and experience and should have ample depth once everyone is settled in at a position. Did the first-team line dominate at A-Day? No. There has been some recent shuffling and the first-team defensive line is daunting. Should it be solid in the fall? Yes.
The ingredients are all in place — as soon as the debate over which straw will stir the drink is settled.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.