2015 Alabama Crimson Tide Football Preview
Head Coach: Nick Saban – (9th year at Alabama: 91-17 and 20th year overall – 182-59-1)
2014 Record: 12-2 overall, 7-1 SEC
Bowl Result: Sugar Bowl (CFB Playoff Semifinal) 1/1/15: Ohio State 42 Alabama 35
With three national titles in Nick Saban’s eight seasons in Tuscaloosa, there’s no doubt that the Crimson Tide expects to be in contention for a championship on an annual basis.
Bama, which suffered a surprising 42-35 loss to eventual national champ Ohio State in last year’s College Football Playoff Semifinal in the Sugar Bowl, certainly has the talent to make a push this season, but there are definitely some significant questions that need to be successfully answered in order for them to do so.
The majority of the those are on the offensive side of the ball where second-year coordinator Lane Kiffin welcomes back just two starters and will be breaking in a new signal-caller after the departure of Blake Sims.
Sims, who beat out Florida State transfer Jacob Coker for the starting job in ’14, had a record-setting season throwing the football. Sims, who also possessed great mobility and ran for 350 yards with seven touchdowns, completed 64.5 percent of his attempts en route to passing for 3,487 yards and 28 touchdowns (compared to just 10 picks).
Coker (6’5”, 232), who appeared in seven games as a junior, is the favorite of the program’s five scholarship quarterbacks to win the job. However, Coker—who was 38-of-59 for 403 yards and four touchdowns without an interception as the back-up in ’14—will have to claim the position in fall camp. Redshirt freshman David Cornwell (6’5”, 221) appears to be the top challenger.
Additionally, the Tide will be without running back T.J. Yeldon (979 yards, 5.0 ypc, 11 TD), its top three receivers—including Heisman Candidate Amari Cooper (124-1,727-16), and three starting offensive linemen.
Derrick Henry, who shared time with Yeldon as a sophomore when he ran for a team-high 990 yards (5.8 ypc) and 11 touchdowns, has an incredible blend of size and speed for a 6’3”, 242-pound back.
At receiver, junior Chris Black (15-188-0), sophomore Robert Foster (6-44-0) and newcomer Calvin Ridley are names to keep an eye on as Bama needs some new stars to emerge.
Kirby Smart’s defensive unit may very well need to shoulder more of the weight than it did last season. The potential is there, but improvement will need to be seen in the secondary.
The front seven will definitely be the strength, as all three starters—A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed, and Jonathan Allen—return on the defensive line.
At linebacker, Bama does lose sack leader Xzavier Dickson (9 sacks), but senior Reggie Ragland—who was second on the team with 95 stops a season ago—is back on the inside. Fellow senior Denzel Devall, who plays on the outside, hopes for a successful final season in Tuscaloosa after an injury-riddled 2014.
A secondary—which saw its share of shortcomings late last season versus Auburn and Ohio State—will be replacing starting safeties Landon Collins (102 tackles, 3 INT) and Nick Perry (80 tackles, 2 INT). At corner, senior Cyrus Jones (3 INT) leads a quartet of players with significant experience so there’s reason to believe the unit can make the necessary strides.
Punter JK Scott, who averaged a stellar 48 yards last season as a freshman, will likely need to continue his trend of flipping the field. Placekicker Adam Griffith, who made just 5-of-12 to close ’14, will be seeking to develop more consistency.
Can a talented, but fairly unproven—especially on offense—Alabama team navigate the brutal SEC West to earn a second straight playoff appearance? It’s tough to bet against Nick Saban, but while the Tide will likely win 10 or more games for an eighth straight season, expect them to come up shy of an SEC West title and playoff berth. The opener against Wisconsin in “Jerry’s World” will be a challenge and the league slate features trips to Georgia and Auburn.
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