We chatted with the folks at Roll Bama Roll and did a little back and forth Q&A. You can read our answers to their questions here. Thanks to them for collaborating.
It’s been the talk of college football, but I still feel it’s worth asking: how are you feeling with Tua Tagovailoa out for this game? How about for the next couple of weeks?
Well first there was panic, then despair. Our fanbase is mostly split at the moment between despair and denial. Most of us pretty much view Arkansas as a an extra bye week (sorry) and are just hoping that This can be ready to go in three weeks for the LSU game. Alabama’s defense hasn’t been up to par this year for various reasons, and the running game has not been dominant. Without Tua, it’s tough to see Alabama winning the SEC West. HOWEVER, there was some flashes of potential dominant play from the defense in the Tennessee game last week after This went out. The most optimistic of us are hoping that maybe that injury provides a spark to the rest of the team to force them to pick up their game now that they don’t have the security blanket of a QB that pretty much scores at will.
Who is an unsung hero for Bama on offense? Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs get a lot of publicity, and rightfully so, but who is someone who maybe goes under the radar?
You didn’t mention DeVonta Smith, who actually leads the team in receiving this year, despite all the attention on Jeudy and Ruggs. But I’ll skip past him and say Jaylen Waddle. It’s hard for a returning SEC All-Freshman player to really go under the radar, but playing behind the trio of receivers mentioned above can do that. Waddle has been absolutely phenomenal as a punt return man for two years, and there’s all kinds of hidden yards in that. But he’s also dangerous in the passing game, and has a knack for breaking JUST enough tackles on critical 3rd downs to get a first when it’s needed most.
Who is the anchor of the defense? Alabama has a great tradition of defensive “quarterbacks” who play linebacker… Reggie Ragland, CJ Mosely, and Dont’a Hightower come to mind. Is someone playing that role this year?
Not really, and that’s the biggest issue. Both inside linebackers are true freshman, after the pre-season injuries to All-American Dylan Moses and senior Josh McMillon. Outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings is a senior and 3 year starter, but he’s primarily a pass rusher, not a “defensive QB”. So really the role has fallen to second-year starter at safety, Xavier McKinney. He’s easily the team’s best tackler (he’s cleaned up a LOT of mistakes from the front 7), and is a speedy cover guy, but has his own issues with actually breaking up passes in one-on-one matchups down the field.
What are Mac Jones’ strengths as a quarterback? What are his weaknesses? Are you confident in his ability to lead the team, or would he be better off game managing?
I don’t have a lot of confidence in him, to be frank. The coaches and players have spoken highly of him for a couple of years now, and he looked great in the 2018 spring game, but he’s looked utterly lost and terrified the two times that he’s come in after Tua got injured (against LSU last season, and now against Tennessee). Strength-wise, he’s got nice arm strength and very good touch on medium-to-deep passes, particularly in the seams. He also ran a wing-T offense in high school, so he’s a lot quicker than most expect, and has some really nifty ball-movement when running play-fakes. The major downside has been one that Nick Saban has addressed many times over the last couple of years: he’s a really emotional player, and has a lot of problems with spiraling once something goes wrong.
Now, there is also Taulia Tagovialoa behind him on the bench. Tua’s younger brother is a true freshman with a whole lot of scrambling ability and backyard football to his game. Saban has made it clear that Jones is the guy going in due to his experience in the system and Tagovailoa is his backup, but don’t be surprised to see Alabama fans clamoring for the younger QB if Jones starts to struggle.
Are there any players you haven’t named that we should know?
Here’s the fun story of the week: watch out for punter Ty Perine. Alabama’s punting this year has been so atrocious that it’s made the decade of horrible field goal kicking a background story. Scholarship punter Skyler DeLong has hovered right around the worst punter in the FBS in nearly any punting stat. Kicker Will Reichard took the job from him, but then ended up pulling a hip flexor, putting Alabama back at square one. Then came walk-on Ty Perine. The cousin of Florida running back, LaMichael Perine, Ty was soccer player in high school that took up field goal kicking in his last couple of years there. He walked on at Alabama as a punter, and was seen more and more in public warm-up as DeLong struggled. He finally got his shot against Tennessee, and booted a 42 yarder, followed by a 51 yard bomb in which he ran down the field and took out the return man himself. It was probably the loudest the stadium got all night.
And, by the way, he’s rumored to run a 4.4 forty. Dunno if trick plays with him will ever be a thing, but he supposedly has the speed.
What’s your score prediction?
Not nice, unfortunately. The Tide offense is probably going to double down on the run game to shorten the clock, so I’m thinking about a 35-6 win for Alabama.
What would be your score prediction if our starters played Bama’s third stringers?
Uhhh. Well, the Alabama defense is so injured that the 3rd string is mostly walk-ons in the front 7, though there is a good bit of depth in the secondary. So Arkansas would definitely score some points, and they’d probably never tackle Boyd and Whaley before they got into the secondary. Alabama has a ridiculously deep receiving group and offensive line, though, so I think they’d be able to move the ball as well (especially considering we’re working with back-up QBs regardless). So lets go 28-27 Arkansas after Alabama misses the extra point to send it to overtime.
How would the Alabama fans react if we somehow pulled off a win?
Total meltdown. Meltdown doesn’t even do it justice. Our fanbase already melts down anytime we even play a close game against a top-25 team, so losing to a very down Arkansas team would probably have half of our spoiled fanbase declaring that they’ll never watch another football game.
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