Alabama Team News

National championship game shows sport’s future is in development

The college football season has finally come to an end. The final game was a page-turner until the very last play.

I want to talk about that last play and what I have seen as a trend growing in college football.

A true freshman quarterback, throwing a touchdown to a true freshman wide receiver, being blocked for by five freshman offensive lineman. The Georgia team was led by a talented true freshman QB who played lights-out. Freshman made plays all over the place.

Freshman playing is nothing new, even at big programs. During my time (James Coleman played fullback at Florida State from 2002-2005) it was normal for freshmen to redshirt in order to learn the system, how to be a student-athlete, and acclimate to campus life along with the rigors of practice.

In those days, injury or depleted position groups led to early snaps. At FSU, injuries led me to break my redshirt. When I look back on it, that 2002 class broke a lot of trends with much of us playing early and often.

The first game I played in was an ESPN “instant classic” against Miami in the old Orange Bowl. The Miami team I played against had 14 players drafted in the first round on defense – not the the entire team and not total players drafted on defense, but first round picks.

Remembering back to that night, I saw nothing, but orange blurs and was simply running as fast as I could in hopes of blocking one. It was reminiscent to the scene from “Any Given Sunday” when Jamie Foxx’ character, Willie Beamen, first got in.

I bring this up because it makes what happened in that national championship game that much more incredible.

Tua Tagovailoa hadn’t seen any meaningful snaps in a game all season until he went in for Jalen Hurts. That Georgia defense is full of players who will play on Sundays. You practice against top guys, so did I, but the game is different. I also played fullback. I typically only had to lock into one, at most two, positions. A QB has to process the entire play and look at the entire defense.

It hit me harder when I heard Tua break-down the coverage and explain why he made the throw he did. He talked about identifying the defense and what the safety was going to do after recognizing it pre-snap, then using his eyes during the play to freeze the safety so he couldn’t help the corner he was going to attack – all in front of 80,000 live fans, millions on television, in overtime of the national championship on a terrible down-and-distance.

It confirmed something that I have seen in my 11 years since last donning a helmet and chasing linebackers, something that in a short amount of time has become more and more clear in recruiting, as well as why so many players are able to play just three years in college and advance to the pro game.

There are only two types of recruits: trained and untrained.

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