ALABAMA FOOTBALL // Five Thoughts on 2017 Season


Alabama put up some impressive numbers under Lane Kiffin. So this is taking nothing away from what he accomplished in three seasons in Tuscaloosa. But a longtime observer familiar with new OC Brian Daboll thinks the 2017 offense will be one of the most explosive units (if not the most explosive) in school history.


Virtually every weapon is in place for Daboll. The Tide has the deepest, most talented corps of running backs in the country. (For those who have asked, Najee Harris is the real deal.) At least three game breaking wide receivers (the source says freshman Henry Ruggs is a fourth one). An offensive line that’s potentially improved. The only spot that will not be better is tight end.


At quarterback, Alabama has the SEC Offensive Player of the Year from 2016. What Jalen Hurts did last season as a true freshman was phenomenal. But improving the passing game is a priority. In A-Day, we saw Hurts make several outstanding downfield throws. Those throws are important. In Daboll’s system, so is getting the ball out quickly to the right guy. Releasing it in 2.5 seconds or less is a goal. Look for an array of quick throws, giving Ridley, Foster, Jeudy and others opportunities to make plays. And watch for running back Joshua Jacobs lined up as a slot receiver. Daboll is said to be very high on Jacobs. As noted, Ruggs also continues to be mentioned as a big-play slot guy.



On the flipside, in the Saban era Alabama fans have been spoiled by incredibly great defenses. But it’s hard to imagine the 2017 defense not taking at least a slight step back. Not that it will be a bad defense, but you don’t lose the number of quality players and the leadership the Tide lost on the defensive side and not feel it.


Think about the guys gone from 2016 unit. Jonathan Allen, Dalvin Tomlinson, Ryan Anderson, Tim Williams, Reuben Foster, Marlon Humphrey… That’s an all-star cast. Not only were they great players, but they had a ton of experience and brought great leadership.



The past two years, what set Alabama apart was it’s defensive line. Bama will not have the numbers up front defensively that it’s had, but there is some quality. Everybody we talk to thinks that Da’Ron Payne is potentially the best DL Bama has had over the past few years. That’s saying something. He’s the undisputed leader up front.


Even though he wasn’t in tip top shape in the spring, JUCO transfer Isaiah Buggs flashed quite a bit of talent. He will be ready to roll come August. He is high quality.


Da’Shawn Hand, the nation’s number one ranked player in the class of 2014, is a senior now. In the spring, he looked to be in tip top shape at 285. Hand knows this is his year. He said as much in the spring.


We continue to hear good things about the summer progress of sophomore Raekwon Davis and redshirt freshman Quinnen Williams. Also, we hear that true freshmen LaBryan Ray and Phidarian Mathis have looked good in summer workouts. Mathis supposedly arrived 25 pounds lighter than last season. Junior Johnny Dwight had a good spring. If he could provide reps in a Darren Lake role, that would be big.



One of the defensive keys will be the return of linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton. In the spring, Hamilton (ACL surgery) was able to sprint and do agility drills, but no contact work. He looked a tad heavy (which is not unusual after knee surgery) in the spring. At last word, he was expected to be ready come August. That is a real key. He sets the defense. Senior Rashaan Evans had a very good spring. He worked inside and as a pass rusher outside. This is his opportunity to step up.


Two young inside backers we continue hearing good things about are sophomore Mack Wilson and freshman Dylan Moses. Those two together inside are an imposing looking duo. Moses has supposedly been a beast throughout the summer workouts. At 230+ pounds, he’s been timed in the 4.4s. He showed excellent potential as an outside pass rusher in the spring.


Summer buzz has been that true freshmen inside backers VanDarius Cowan and Chris Allen have flashed impressive ability. Both are 240+. And both have the ability to line up outside as pass rushers.


Don’t forget about junior Keith Holcombe. He had post-spring shoulder surgery. But he had good spring.


On the outside, Anfernee Jennings and Christian Miller step in for Anderson and Williams. Jennings is a throwback of sorts. Big, strong physical guy against the run. Solid pass rusher. Miller has gained nearly 40 pounds. Terrell Lewis (formerly Terrell Hall) is a budding star. He will be a key pass rusher. This guy will be a difference maker. It’s just a matter of time.


We’ve not heard much lately about redshirt freshman Ben Davis. He started inside and then moved outside in the spring. The general feeling has been that he will eventually develop into an outside pass rusher.



Several people have asked about replacing Adam Griffith. Andy Pappanastos and J.K. Scott handled the chores in the spring. Touted freshman Joseph Bulovas is on campus this summer and most expect him to be the guy.


Word from summer work is that Bulovas has a solid leg. He’s been very consistent and has kicked with confidence. Hopefully that continues when a hundred thousand are in the stands.


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