The first full weekend of college football season is less than two weeks away. The staff at TideSports is looking ahead to the start of the action, and making our preseason predictions for the 2017 season.
We’ll be rolling out predictions every day on TideSports. Check back all week as we look into our crystal ball for this fall!
If you missed it Monday, here’s our staff choices for the 2017 Heisman winner and Alabama’s toughest game.
Quarterback is the obvious choice on any football team at any level in any season. Having acknowledged that, Fitzpatrick is possibly Alabama’s best player at three different positions and has also received the Nick Saban Leadership Seal of Approval.
Usually these types of distinctions are given toward positions that lend itself toward statistics that are easily analyzed. Jalen Hurts, being a dual-threat quarterback, will certainly rack up the stats this year. However, is there anyone more valuable than a guy who can literally play every position in the defensive backfield? I say no. I also strongly considered Rashaan Evans in this spot.
Minkah Fitzpatrick may well be the best player on this team, but it’s hard to have enough influence as a defensive back to be a true MVP. On offense, the running back position may well be by committee, and as good as Calvin Ridley is there’s room for other wideouts to mitigate his contribution. So I’m going to look at the heart of the defense and predict a breakout season by Rashaan Evans to take the honor.
It’s a tough call between Hurts and Minkah Fitzpatrick. Losing Fitzpatrick would require Alabama to rebuild every secondary package to accomodate his multiple roles. But losing Hurts would put Tua Tagovailoa under the gun. Alabama has depth at running back, receiver, and most places on defense. There are only three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. Two of them will have to play, but Hurts is the most indispensable.
There isn’t a spot in the secondary Fitzpatrick can’t play. His versatility has benefited the Crimson Tide in the past and is sure to in the future. The defense lost seven players to the NHL draft, including defensive backs Marlon Humphrey and Eddie Jackson. Now Fitzpatrick is the leader of the pack and will rise to the occasion — he did last season, leading the team in interceptions with six.
Alabama’s breakout star
Henry Ruggs III
There’s a decent crowd ahead of Ruggs at wide receiver but he has the skill and athletic talent to pass most, if not all, by the end of the year. This is also a year that sets up well for a returner who can take over the Eddie Jackson role.
The defense is looking for a pass rush that can replace the production of Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson. Miller has bided his time, gaining experience and size in the strength and conditioning program. Miller has produced the most consistent pass rush of fall camp and is best equipped to continue that during the season due to the playing time he’s likely to receive. I also considered Jerry Jeudy in this position but was hesitant due to an unproven Alabama passing attack.
The Crimson Tide lost a lot of pass-rush production from last year’s team. The 2017 defense may not be as fearsome to quarterbacks, but Christian Miller has the ability to be a guy who can pick up some of that slack. He’ll have a chance to be UA’s sack leader if he seizes the opportunity.
Alabama is looking for a replacement for Marlon Humphrey (6-0/196). That’s where Diggs (6-2/195) comes in. Calvin Ridley says that Diggs gives him trouble when they match up in practice. He was a good enough athlete to earn playing time as a receiver and special teams player last year. Now he’ll have the chance to settle in at one position and learn from Derrick Ansley.
Everyone expects Bo Scarbrough, Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris to play because – plot twist – they did last season. But Harris has garnered more attention this preseason than the three returning running backs combined. Remember that Nick Saban has no qualms about starting a freshman over a veteran.