Alabama welcomes former wide receivers coach Billy Napier and his Louisiana-Lafayette Rajun Cajuns to Tuscaloosa. The Tide are 4-0, 2-0 against SEC West foes and have looked unstoppable early this season. ULL is 1-2.
Nick Saban isn’t content with the play of his team though, of course. How can Alabama use this game to become even better?
Running when you want to
As Saban as stated before, it’s not about being able to run the ball when you need to, but when you want to. The Tide struggled rushing against Texas A&M last week. While concerning, it’s not the end of the world.
The team’s running backs are averaging 5.2 yards per rush and 205 yards per game, both numbers slightly down from last year. That may have more to do with how this offense works when compared to last season’s.
Center Ross Pierschbacher had arguably his worst game at the position last week. Let’s not discredit the Aggies front four either. They are a talented bunch and gave Alabama fits as a unit as they will do most other teams this year. Still, Alabama will need to continue to work on consistently running the ball when it wants to in order to balance the passing attack.
I’m not going to pretend like Alabama handles ULL easily on Saturday which means plenty of time for second and even third string players to see quality playing time. This benefits Alabama in multiple ways.
One, by jumping out to a sizable early lead, starters receive enough time to stay fresh without the added risk of injury. Two, backups receiving quality playing time this early in the season can lead to greater competition in practice and the possible emergence of talented players who can contribute later in the season.
Let’s not forget that games like this can also provide a situation where coaches can evaluate talent as it pertains to the new redshirt rule. Think of this game as a sort of measuring stick for certain players. Players not ready to take on a role in a game like this, chances are they won’t be able to in more meaningful games either.
Sifting through players and identifying who should and shouldn’t redshirt is a gift not every coach is afforded, especially in the middle of the season, and the Tide should take advantage of the opportunity.
A roller coaster of emotions from one week to another can cause players to mentally check out long before they hit the field. I expect most of the starters will see less action this week than in weeks prior, but whether it’s a starter or someone buried on the depth chart, surviving the week with as few injuries as possible is ultimately the biggest takeaway from this game.
The game itself should be in hand quickly. Finding a way to keep 85 guys plugged in and giving 100 percent in order not injure themselves is a task in itself.
Saban does an incredible job of keeping guys on their toes even when the game isn’t close. Expect to see some yelling on the sidelines all game. It’s a tactic that works to maintain focus.
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