#1 Alabama Football 2016 Preview

Alabama Crimson Tide
Overall Rank: #1
#1 SEC
Alabama had a lot of big games last year and they came out on top in all of them. Following an early season loss to Ole Miss, the Crimson Tide had no margin for error. They kept beating top SEC team after top SEC team and finished on top of the SEC West with a 7-1 record. Coach Nick Saban and company still had a long way to go though. They beat Florida in the SEC title game to reach the playoffs where they knocked off Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl and slipped past Clemson in the national championship game. With a strong defense and an offense that will reload, Alabama is once again the team to beat.
2015 Record: 14-1, 7-1
2015 Bowl: Cotton Bowl vs. Michigan State (W 38-0), National Championship Game vs. Clemson (W 45-40)
Coach: Nick Saban (105-18 at Alabama, 196-60-1 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Lane Kiffin
Defensive Coordinator: Jeremy Pruitt
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Damien Harris, RB, 157 yards
Passing: Cooper Bateman, QB, 291 yards
Receiving: Calvin Ridley, WR, 1,045 yards
Tackles: Reuben Foster, LB, 73
Sacks: Jonathan Allen, DE, 12.0
Interceptions: Eddie Jackson, S, 6
Other Key Returnees: WR ArDarius Stewart, TE OJ Howard, OL Cam Robinson, LB Tim Williams, CB Minkah Fitzpatrick, LB Ryan Anderson, CB Marlon Humphrey, P JK Scott
Key Losses: RB Derrick Henry, QB Jake Coker, OL Ryan Kelly, OL Dominick Jackson, LB Reggie Ragland, CB Cyrus Jones, S Geno Matias-Smith, DE Jarran Reed, DL A’Shawn Robinson
The Crimson Tide ranked first in the country in rush defense and third in total defense and scoring defense. Those are some impressive numbers and defense certainly won a championship for Alabama last year. The front line does not have the same amount of quality depth that it had last year, but Jonathan Allen, Da’Shawn Hand, Da’Ron Payne and Dalvin Tomlinson are all great talents. Allen led the team with 12.0 sacks and 14.5 tackles-for-loss last season and Hand is poised for a breakout season at the other end spot. Reuben Foster will move to the middle linebacker spot after recording 73 tackles in 2015. Foster is an experienced senior leader who could be even more productive in that spot than the departed Reggie Ragland was last year. Tim Williams will the main pass rushing threat among the linebackers. He recorded 10.5 sacks as a sophomore. The secondary will be led by safety Eddie Jackson, who recorded 46 tackles and a team high six interceptions. Sophomore cornerbacks Minkah Fitzpatrick and Marlon Humphrey gained some valuable experience last year and are a couple of very talented players who are ready to emerge as superstar cornerbacks.
Once again Alabama is breaking in a new quarterback. Cooper Bateman, Blake Barnett and Jalen Hurts went well into fall camp battling it out for the starting job. Bateman is the only one who has thrown a pass in college, competing 37-of-52 passes for 291 yards as a backup to Jake Coker last season. Whoever ends up under center will have a lot of talented receiving targets. Calvin Ridley caught 89 passes for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns last year and he can make any quarterback look really good. With ArDarius Stewart, who caught 63 passes, and tight end O.J. Howard, Alabama has a lot of dangerous weapons. Somebody needs to be able to get them the ball on a consistent basis though. And that may not be easy without Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake establishing the ground game. Henry left early for the NFL after rushing for 2,219 yards and an amazing 28 touchdowns. Sophomore Damien Harris rushed for 157 yards on 46 carries last year and Bo Scarbrough rushed for 104 yards on 18 carries. Those two will have to carry the load behind an offensive line that lost Ryan Kelly and Dominick Jackson.
The Bottom Line:
Alabama starts the season with a very interesting game against USC in Arlington. Two weeks later they head to Ole Miss in a game where the Tide will be looking for a little revenge. Trips to Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU in a five week stretch beginning on October 8th will be the telling group of games for Alabama. After that November 5th showdown with LSU, they do not leave Tuscaloosa until, presumably, the SEC championship game.
Projected Bowl: Playoffs / Peach Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 199.9 (32nd in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 227.1 (62, 5)
Total Offense: 427.1 (45, 5)
Scoring Offense: 35.1 (30, 4)
Rushing Defense: 75.7 (1, 1)
Pass Defense: 200.6 (30, 6)
Total Defense: 276.3 (3, 1)
Scoring Defense: 15.1 (3, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.67 (21, 1)
Sacks: 3.53 (3, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.67 (45, 6)
Madness 2017 NFL Draft Rankings:
#11 Jonathan Allen
#14 Tim Williams
#24 Eddie Jacksom
#25 O.J. Howard
#29 Cam Robinson
#51 Reuben Foster
#55 Da'Shawn Hand
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#10 Ben Davis
#17 Lyndell Wilson
#18 B.J. Emmons
#19 Jonah Williams
#37 Terrell Hall
#50 Nigel Knott
#82 Shyheim Carter
#94 Kendall Jones