The 2018 season is almost here and before you know it we will be focused on depth charts and point spreads. Before we get there, I wanted to predict the five things I’m most sure about when it comes to the 2018 Alabama team. Some of these predictions are team oriented while others are also dependent upon a single individual. As always, you can never predict injuries.
5. The WR corps will be better with Calvin Ridley gone
I know what you’re thinking: how can this group be better with Ridley gone? It sounds crazy, but in 2017, Jalen Hurts was married to Calvin Ridley as his first – and sometimes only – target for most of the season.
With Tua taking over full-time, and a seasoned batch of returners to go along with talented freshman, the passing game for Alabama will be a major strength in 2018. DeVonta Smith, Henry Ruggs III, and Jerry Jeudy all return as sophomores, stepping up after four of the team’s top five receiving leaders have departed.
Jeudy is the leading returning starter as he caught 14 passes for 264 yards last year. Henry Ruggs III averaged 19.1 yards per catch while turning six of his 12 receptions into touchdowns. And Smith, well Smith had the biggest catch of them all bringing in the winning touchdown of the national championship game.
They’re young, but very talented and with Ridley gone, this will force someone – or all of them – to step up early and often.
4. The defense will have two double-digit sack players
With all of the amazing talent that Alabama has seen Nick Saban bring in, not once has the team had multiple members of the defense produced double-digit sack numbers in the same year. Jonathan Allen (12) and Tim Williams (9.5) came closest in 2015.
Finding one double-digit sacker has been tough for Bama. Only Wallace Gilberry (10), Jonathan Allen (12) in 2015, and Allen (10.5) again in 2016 have reached that milestone. The 2018 defensive roster, however, is loaded with guys who can get to the quarterback. Raekwon Davis is the returning leader with 8.5. Isaiah Buggs, Quinnen Williams, Terrell Lewis, Christian Miller, and Anfernee Jennings all have the skills to join Davis.
3. Tua Tagovailoa will be the Day One starter
Since the moment Tagovailoa brought the Tide back and won the national championship game, the writing was on the wall for Jalen Hurts. Sure, there were those who thought Hurts could take the opportunity in spring to show how he had developed with Tagovailoa sidelined due to a hand injury, but that didn’t happen.
I can’t remember the last time we’ve seen a two-year starter get benched because of his play in the national championship and come back the next year to take over again. Alabama has moved on from Hurts as the starter and though they may not say it, we all know it.
Make no mistake, there are going to be bumps and bruises for Tagovailoa throughout 2018, but nothing short of an injury will keep him from winning the position in fall camp and being the starter against Louisville and beyond.
© 2016, gridironnow.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.