#6 Alabama Football 2015 Preview

Alabama Crimson Tide

Overall Rank: #6
#2 SEC

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Alabama’s 2014 season was as planned until the playoffs. The Crimson Tide navigated the brutal SEC with a 7-1 conference record and crushed Missouri in the SEC Championship game. The 12-1 mark was easily enough for Coach Nick Saban and company to make the playoffs. But they ran into a destined Ohio State squad in the Sugar Bowl and lost 42-35. What was one of the best run defenses in the country allowed Buckeye back Ezekiel Elliott to rush for 230 yards on 20 carries and the Tide did not have enough offensive firepower to make up for that. From a pure talent stand point, this is the best team in the country, but the lack of experience at a few key positions could leave Alabama out of the title game again.

2014 Record: 12-2, 7-1
2014 Bowl: Sugar Bowl vs. Ohio State (L 42-35)
Coach: Nick Saban (91-17 at Alabama, 182-59-1 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Lane Kiffin
Defensive Coordinator: Kirby Smart

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Derrick Henry, RB, 990 yards
Passing: Jake Coker, QB, 403 yards
Receiving: O.J. Howard, TE, 260 yards
Tackles: Reggie Ragland, LB, 95
Sacks: Jonathan Allen, DE, 5.5
Interceptions: Cyrus Jones, CB, 3

Other Key Returnees: OL Cam Robinson, S Geno Smith, DE Jarran Reed, DL A’Shawn Robinson, P J.K. Scott, K Adam Griffith

Key Losses: RB T.J. Yeldon, QB Blake Sims, WR Amari Cooper, WR DeAndrew White, OL Arie  Kouandjio, OL Leon Brown, OL Austin Shepherd, DB Landon Collins, LB Trey DePriest, DB Nick Perry

Alabama’s defense should be among the best in the country and the front seven may be the best. The line returns all three starters in A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed and Jonathan Allen. Robinson, a junior nose tackle, can control the line and Allen led the team with 5.5 sacks in 2014. There is plenty of experience at linebacker with Denzel Devall, Ryan Anderson and Dillon Lee. Those three will likely see most of the action at the outside linebacker spots. Reggie Ragland and Reuben Foster will play inside. Ragland could have gone to the NFL after his junior year, but opted to return for his senior season. Foster only tallied 22 tackles as a sophomore, but he has been waiting his turn and certainly has the talent to be the next great inside linebacker at Alabama. The secondary has the biggest questions, especially at safety where inexperienced players will be forced into action. The cornerbacks have more experience, but did not play particularly well down the stretch. Still, the talent level is ridiculous and defensivive coordinator Kirby Smart will be able to find serviceable players in the secondary among a large group with a ton of potential.

The offense has even more rebuilding to do. Gone are quarterback Blake Sims, running back T.J. Yeldon and all of the top receivers, including Amari Cooper. Jake Coker figures to replace Blake Sims. The former Seminole of Florida State lost out to Sims last year in a quarterback battle, but did look pretty good as Sims’ backup a year ago. Redshirt freshman David Cornwell is not a bad option either. At wide receiver, Chris Black and Robert Foster have waited their turn. Black caught 15 passes for 188 yards as a sophomore, while Foster caught six passes as a freshman. They should emerge as Coker’s top targets, but expect a steady dose of tight end O.J. Howard too, especially while the passing game is getting used to all of the new faces. At running back, Derrick Henry returns after rushing for 990 yards and 11 touchdowns. He split carries with Yeldon in 2014, but is a big, bruising back who can handle 250 or more carries. Still Alabama needs a change of pace back and that is where a now healthy Kenyan Drake should emerge.

The Bottom Line:
The opening game against Wisconsin could be very interesting since there are a lot of new faces at Alabama. But it should not take long at all for the Tide’s talent to overshadow their inexperience. The SEC West will be extremely tough again this year, but Alabama has the talent to reach the SEC Championship again in 2015. It will likely all come down to the Iron Bowl in Auburn on the final Saturday of the regular season. The winner of that contest will likely reach the playoffs.

Projected Bowl: Sugar Bowl

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 206.6 (35th in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 277.9 (28, 4)
Total Offense: 484.5 (17, 3)
Scoring Offense: 36.9 (15, 2)
Rushing Defense: 102.4 (4, 1)
Pass Defense: 226.0 (58, 11)
Total Defense: 328.4 (12, 3)
Scoring Defense: 18.4 (6, 3)
Turnover Margin: -0.14 (71, 11)
Sacks: 2.21 (61, 7)
Sacks Allowed: 1.14 (14, 2)

Madness 2016 NFL Draft Rankings:
#2 A'Shawn Robinson
#34 Derrick Henry
#42 O.J. Howard
#47 Reggie Ragland
#54 Eddie Jackson

Madness 2015 Recruit Rankings:
#10 Calvin Ridley
#19 Kendall Sheffield
#23 Blake Barnett
#25 Daron Payne
#29 Minkah Fitzpatrick
#32 Damien Harris
#47 Deionte Thompson
#59 Lester Cotton
#71 Richie Petitbon
#90 Daylon Charlot
#110 Keenan Walker
#125 Adonis Thomas
#130 Hale Hentges
#154 Mekhi Brown
#175 Desherrius Flowers
#193 Shawn Burgess-Becker


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