3 things we learned in Alabama's 38-19 win over Missouri
Alabama’s 21 unanswered points in the first 15:23 of the game began a convincing 38-19 win over Missouri on Saturday.
Here are three things we learned from the game.
Waddle’s time is now
Junior wide receiver Jaylen Waddle knew this was his season to break out. After two seasons of playing behind Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, he would be the primary threat to pair with DeVonta Smith.
He did his best to prepare for a new set of responsibilities. The early returns were convincing.
Waddle exited the game with eight catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns. The seven catches were a career high and the 134 yards were 4 shy of tying his current career high, set in 2018 against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Waddle did not get a chance to return a kick or punt — where he made his biggest impact last year — but one game was enough to show Waddle won’t have to wait for kicks and punts to make his presence known. Waddle, after all, was the target of 10 of Alabama’s 32 pass attempts.
Alabama is using its tight end depth
Miller Forristall, Cameron Latu, Carl Tucker and Jahleel Billingsley were all seen early and often. Only Forristall had an impact as a pass catcher — one reception for 34 yards — but the rotation among the three showed UA will use its wealth of depth at the position in multiple ways.
Forristall was a receiving threat last season before his throat injury, catching 12 passes for 131 yards and three touchdowns in the first eight games. Tucker was a receiving threat in his career at North Carolina. Latu and Billingsley have played too little to know anything of their skill sets, but that could change if the usage against Missouri extends through the rest of the season.
Inside linebacker play has improved
It was safe to assume the return of All-SEC linebacker Dylan Moses to the Crimson Tide’s defense was going to help, and it did. Moses contributed two tackles for a loss and kept UA’s defensive positioning in order for the most part, which was problematic at times in 2019.
Moses’ partner in the middle, Christian Harris, showed development from his freshman to sophomore season. Like Moses, he added two tackles for a loss and added a sack in six tackles, tied for second on the team.
A more experienced defensive line should help UA’s defense improve against the run, evidenced against the Tigers by LaBryan Ray’s four tackles, one for a loss. But Alabama’s defense will live and die with its inside linebacker play, and the season opener was a step in the right direction for that position group.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson