Five Difference Makers on the Crimson Tide Through 8 Games
Another dominating first half of the season for Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide going on a eight game winning streak.
Despite a close game against the Aggies in College Station, and a competitive first half in the season opener against the Florida State Seminoles, the Crimson Tide has rolled through opponents putting them in position for another appearance to the college football playoffs.
This 2017 run for the Crimson Tide has a lot to do with staff and the talented players on the field. Here are five difference makers on Alabama so far this season.
With Alabama being running back by community its safe to say that Damien Harris has been the leader of the pack. With many believing Bo Scarbrough would take most of the starting load this season, it has been Harris making the most of the touches he gets on the field. Harris has 81 rushes for 697 yards and 10 touchdowns. He averages 8.6 yards per game, top 10 among running backs in the country. He's cut down on his beloved honey buns and improved on his acceleration in the open field and his ability to escape defenders is one of the best in the country. At this rate Damien could be a Heisman hopeful if not for a strong performance from Penn State's Saquon Barkley throughout the season. Watching Harris run the football is a thing of beauty and helps the offense more than anyone could imagine.
This is a difference maker everyone knew would be in this position going into this season so there is no surprise here. Minkah Fitzpatrick has been the alpha dog on this Alabama defense and his interception late in the Texas A&M game is a perfect example why. Fitzpatrick is a momentum shifter on the defensive side of the football and if he had more highlight plays and plays that show up on the stat sheet, he would be invited to New York for the Heisman. He is a player that is all over the field from disrupting the quarterback to coverage, Fitzpatrick is an all-around defensive player and part of the reason this defense has been so dominant throughout the first 8 games of the season.
Alabama Defensive Line and Linebackers
Injuries can cause a team to face many setbacks in their rotation, this hasn't been a problem for this Alabama front line. Since Terrell Lewis and Christian Miller's season-ending injuries early in the season, it has been next man up on that defensive front and at the linebacker position and they haven't lost a step. Isaiah Buggs filling in for Da'Shawn Hand in the Texas A&M game is a prime example of no matter who is on defense upfront, this Crimson Tide time will see no drop-off at those positions. Most teams lose one player on defense and the whole unit falls apart slowly, with the Crimson Tide being so deep at every position in talent, it seems like they only get better.
When Brian Daboll was hired to replace Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian as the offensive play-caller, many had high hopes for the former tight ends coach of the New England Patriots. After the season-opener against Florida State, many questioned his play-calling after the first and wondered if he was the right person for the job, and since then he has proved that. The Crimson Tide ranks sixth in the nation in total offense with 3998 yards and an average of 43 points per game. I haven't heard the 'run the blanking ball' chant this season as the Alabama run game ranks fourth in rushing in the country. Although the passing isn't where most people want it to be, the way Daboll is using the talent on this offense is making the Crimson Tide the most exciting team to watch on that end of the football field. If Daboll continues to work with Jalen in the passing game and he improves, the sky is the limit for what this offense can do moving forward in the season.
From a former walk-on to a star cornerback, Levi Wallace is a breath of fresh air for a Crimson Tide secondary that had a ton of questions going into this season. After Marlon Humphrey left for the NFL Draft, this left a major hole in the secondary that the senior from Tuscon, AZ had no problem with filling. Wallace has three interceptions this season one ran back for a touchdown and also collected two sacks, nine pass deflections and 23 total tackles. Wallace has been holding down his side of the field so much that he's daring quarterbacks to throw to him. Outside of Minkah, who is all over the field, Ronnie Harrison, who leads the team in tackles and also has two sacks and two interception, Wallace's coverage and the stats that don't show up on paper are what makes him one of the most exciting players to watch on this team.