“My conversation (with Daboll) was that I wanted to continue to do the things that we’ve done well here,” Saban said. “But I felt we got completely away from the pro-style passing game and play-action passes. We didn’t do a very good job of developing the quarterback as a passer.
“We want to have the kind of balance on offense that would make us difficult to defend. I want to run the ball, but I don’t want to be conservative on offense.”
Well, Alabama is going to run the ball under Daboll because the Crimson Tide has an embarrassment of riches at running back. Scarbrough (812 yards) is back and has recovered from a broken leg sustained late against Clemson. So are Damien Harris (1,016) and Josh Jacobs (548). And to that impressive list, add freshman early-enrollee Najee Harris, one of the top three recruits overall in the class. Brian Robinson, a highly recruited running back from Tuscaloosa, has turned some heads in practice. B.J. Emmons was one of the nation’s more highly recruited running backs a year ago and got some early work in the 2016 season before sustaining an injury. He is back, too.
Conventional wisdom is that you can never have enough quality running backs. Alabama in 2017 may be the exception to that rule. Are there enough carries to go around, especially when you consider Hurts’ running ability?
And here is another complicating factor if you play Alabama in 2017. Saban said, right now, he feels better about the depth and talent at quarterback than he has in several years.
That’s because of the arrival of freshman Tua Tagovailoa, a Hawaii native considered to be the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school. Tagovailoa, a left-hander, has pushed Hurts – the SEC offensive player of the year in 2016 – to be better while bringing more talent to the backup position.
“Jalen is better than he was last year and (Tagovailoa) is better than what we had backing up,” Saban said. “I feel good about where we are at that position.”
Up front, coaches will slide sophomore Jonah Williams from right tackle to Cam Robinson’s slot at left tackle and just keep moving. Williams is really, really good.
Yes, the defense will miss some war daddies such as Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams, Reuben Foster and Marlon Humphrey. But the reality is there are a bunch of talented guys who have been waiting patiently for their turn. It’s just a question of, as Saban said, finding the right guys and getting them on the right seats on the bus.
In short, Alabama again will be the nation’s No. 1 team when the preseason polls come out in August. The Crimson Tide again will be picked to win the conference championship when the media votes at SEC Media Days in July.
But here is something different: The Florida State team that meets Alabama on Sept. 2 in Atlanta is the best opening-day opponent the Crimson Tide have faced since Saban has been coach. Win that game and I believe Alabama runs the table and makes it back to the playoffs. And this time, the CFP national championship game will be at the same Mercedes-Benz Stadium where Alabama is scheduled to start the season.
“It’s not like we’re going back to the drawing board,” said Williams, who started all 15 games at right tackle as a true freshman. “We’re just going to have a little more accountability.”
This time, maybe Alabama will be one second better.
(You can follow Tony Barnhart on Twitter @MrCFB)
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