Armchair quarterbacks have all the answers. They have the benefit of not calling or executing plays in the spotlight.
In recent weeks, fans and media have questioned if the Alabama passing game is good enough to win in the College Football Playoff and how the running backs are dividing carries. Those questions come from passion, a good thing for a fan base, but from that passion can sometimes come impatience.
The critiques of the offense are heard by the players and coaches, especially those of sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts.
“What Jalen does for us, we really don’t care what everyone says, the media, the fans,” junior tight end Hale Hentges said. “They can say whatever they want about Jalen, but we know what he does for our program. He’s a fearless leader, he’s our guy and he’s led us to many great wins and we’re behind him 100 percent. We believe in him, he’s done a great job for our offense, and he’s going to continue to do a great job.”
A locker room can sometimes be the fortress an individual player or team needs to shut out the criticism and negativity. That’s where the Alabama-versus-the-world attitude stems. When strong critiques do penetrate a locker room, teammates naturally buck against it.
“It’s hard to see, especially because you’ve gone through so much with your brother — that’s my brother,” Hentges said. “He’s done a great job leading us. We try to stay off social media and don’t pay attention to that because everything that matters is what’s in our locker room and between us and the coaches. We’re focused on getting better every day, and so things that have happened in the past don’t matter to us, we’re looking forward to this new opportunity and new challenge that we have. And we’re behind him 100 percent.”
The critique of how the running backs are used is fairly new. After all, for the season UA ranks sixth nationally in yards per carry (6.0) and ninth in yards per game (265.33). It was only after the Iron Bowl against Auburn that fans began openly questioning why junior running back Damien Harris didn’t get more carries. Harris ran the ball six times against Auburn and averaged 8.5 yards per carry.
The coaches staff knows the statistics. They’re also completely comfortable with how they divide the carries.
“There’s only one ball,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “I’ve answered this question before. You’re asking me, do I think everybody is getting enough carries? Then you ask if one of the guys can get more carries. There’s still only one ball, and we’re only going to run the ball so many times. We’re going to have a plan for how we want to play the guys in the game. The guys that are playing well in the game usually get to play a little bit more and maybe they get a few more touches. We certainly have four guys that we’ve tried to have a play for and three of them have played pretty extensively and all made a significant contribution this year. We want them to continue to do it.
“What I talked about earlier, everyone taking ownership for whatever their job is in this game and whatever opportunities they get, we want them to be well-prepared so they can go out and do a great job and that would be the same case, whatever the role is for these running backs.”
Reach Aaron Suttles at email@example.com or at 205-722-0229.