Top Five Questions Facing Alabama Football Heading Into Week One
The long-anticipated start of the Crimson Tide’s 2020 season is almost here. We’ve been through all the ups and downs of a COVID offseason and have gotten uncomfortably close to accepting a year without college football. Finally, we can stop asking “if” Alabama will put a team on the field, and instead ask “what” they will look like on the field.
With practices all but wrapped up and a depth chart officially released, here are five of the biggest questions surrounding the Crimson Tide as it prepares to open the season against the Missouri Tigers.
- How will Will Anderson contribute in his first action?
The hype around Will Anderson has been incredible. Monday It was revealed the freshman carved out a starting spot for himself at the jack linebacker position after wreaking havoc amongst offensive lines in fall camp. It seems Anderson is picking up right where he left off. During his senior campaign for Dutchtown High school in Georgia, he recorded 22 sacks and 15 tackles for a loss on his way to being ranked the No. 1 weak side defensive end in the nation.
Defensive veterans for the Tide already sing his praises, like Dylan Moses who said in a press conference yesterday that Anderson came in, “already physically ready to be on the college level”.
He has big shoes to fill, as Anfernee Jennings led the Tide in both sacks and tackles for a loss last season at the jack linebacker position. However if Anderson’s camp performance is any indicator, he is set for a breakout year on this Alabama defense.
- Will Dylan Moses return to anchoring the Tide front seven?
A major piece missing from the 2019 defense is returning in 2020, that piece being Dylan Moses. The Tuesday before Alabama opened against Duke last year, Moses tore his ACL and was declared out for the season. As the signal caller of the defense, the loss of Moses was noticeable. Alabama was ranked as the top defense throughout 2018 with Moses in the front seven, and fell all the way back to 20 nationally with Moses out.
When he decided to come back to Alabama and forgo a high draft grade, it signified unfinished business. Now after a year of recovery and training, Moses looks primed to bring the Tide defense back to its standard. Everything released about his health and readiness to lead this defense has been positive and downright exciting. As he said in his own words at Monday’s press conference: “I want to strike fear in my opponents”.
- Will the Tide finally have a reliable field goal kicker?
Will Reichard enters this season as Alabama’s starting kicker, a title he has held for the second year but has limited experience with. After going 4-7 on field goals in the Tide’s first few games last season, Reichard was burdened by a hip flexor injury for the majority of 2019. After rest and rehab, Reichard seems back to normal, even posting videos of himself kicking 60+ yard field goals back in June.
Reichard’s performance during fall practice was promising, where in one scrimmage he went 4-5 on attempts, his only miss coming from 50+ yards. Coach Saban’s confidence in him is high, but if there is any player on the field that will receive the most scrutiny from the Tide fanbase, it’s the starting kicker. All signs point to Reichard improving on his showing from 2019.
- Besides Patrick Surtain II, who will step up as a leader in the secondary?
Be ready to see a lot of new names be thrown around this season in the Tide secondary as Alabama deals with a mass exodus of talent drafted into the NFL. Cornerback Patrick Surtain II remains the only returning starter for the Tide, however there are plenty of players with playing experience ready to contribute in 2020.
Redshirt junior Daniel Wright will make his starting debut at free safety, and right next to him at strong safety will be sophomore Jordan Battle who saw playing time in all 13 games last year. Josh Jobe, who had a great showing in relief for Trevon Diggs in the Citrus Bowl, earned the start at the other cornerback position. Freshmen Malachi Moore and Brian Branch turned heads all preseason, and both earned spots rotating at the star position.
It’s a deep group, but it could prove to be shaky at first due to lack of experience. Look for the talent and coaching to come out on top, and produce a solid secondary in 2020.
- How Will Mac Jones perform?
Easily the most prominent storyline out of Tuscaloosa this offseason was who would take the reins at quarterback after Tua Tagovailoa’s departure to the NFL. After a quarterback battle between Jones and freshman phenom Bryce Young, It was announced Monday that Jones earned the start as against Missouri. Fans are already familiar with Jones abilities, and it’s safe to say the offense is in good hands based on Jones’ production last year. In his four starts, Jones racked up 1,503 yards passing and 14 touchdowns on three Interceptions. His teammates have said nothing but encouraging things about his ability to lead the offense, and it’s clear Coach Saban feels the same.
“Mac has had a really good camp, really played well in the last scrimmage,” Saban said in the Monday press conference. “I think he's done a good job of taking a leadership role and I think the players have a lot of confidence in him.”
While Young will likely have opportunities to play throughout the season, this looks to be Jones’ year at the helm of Alabama football. From everything we know, it’s going to be another impressive showing by this offense with him leading it.
The Tide face the Missouri Tigers in Columbia at 6:00 p.m. CT on Saturday.