#1 Alabama Football 2014 Preview

Alabama Crimson Tide

Overall Rank: #1
#1 SEC

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Alabama was 11-0 when they went to Auburn during the last week of the regular season. On the line was a trip to the SEC title game and a shot at a national title. In dramatic and memorable fashion, Coach Nick Saban and company blew that game and had to settle for a trip to the Sugar Bowl. Most programs do not settle for the Sugar Bowl, but Alabama does. And they hindered their momentum heading into 2014 even more by falling to Oklahoma 45-31.

2013 Record: 11-2, 7-1
2013 Bowl: Sugar Bowl vs. Oklahoma (L 31-45)
Coach: Nick Saban (79-15 at Alabama, 170-57-1 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Lane Kiffin
Defensive Coordinator: Kirby Smart

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: T.J. Yeldon, RB, 1,235 yards
Passing: Blake Sims, QB, 167 yards
Receiving: Amari Cooper, WR, 736 yards
Tackles: Landon Collins, S, 70
Sacks: A’Shawn Robinson, DE, 5.5
Interceptions: Landon Collins, S, 2; Cyrus Jones, CB, 2

Other Key Returnees: RB Kenyan Drake, RB Derrick Henry, WR DeAndrew White, WR Christian Jones, TE O.J. Howard, LB Trey DePriest, LB Denzel Devall, LB Xzavier Dickson, S Jarrick Williams

Key Losses: QB A.J. McCarron, WR Kevin Norwood, OL Cyrus Kouandjio, OL Anthony Steen, LB C.J. Mosley, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, DE Ed Stinson, DE Jeoffrey Pagan, K Cade Foster, P Cody Mandell

Alabama has a bevy of talent at running back and wide receiver. Junior T.J. Yeldon rushed for 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2013 and will be the top option for this offense in 2014. Coach Saban is very high on sophomore Derrick Henry. He rushed for 382 yards and on just 35 carries as a freshman and should be due for more carries. Kenyan Drake, who rushed for 694 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013, is also back. Amari Cooper leads the talent at wide receiver. The 6-1 junior caught a team high 45 passes for 736 yards. Christion Jones and DeAndrew White are experienced senior starters. Jones is a quality possession receiver while White averaged nearly 17 yards per catch. Tight end O.J. Howard only caught 14 passes in 2013, but with a new quarterback, he could be much more productive this time around. Of course, it is usually the Alabama defense that leads to domination and this year will be no different. The unit ranked in the top five in the nation in total defense and scoring defense. The front three has not been very good when it comes to getting to the quarterback, but that could change with sophomore end A’Shawn Robinson. He led the team with 5.5 sacks as a freshman and will be the leader of a group of ends that now has much more depth. Linebackers Xzavier Dickson, Reggie Ragland and Denzel Devall will need to help out in the pass rush as well. Meanwhile Trey DePriest will take over the leadership role in the middle of the defense from the departed C.J. Mosley.

The Alabama secondary had some tough moments last season and the only player back is strong safety Landon Collins. The team must get better production at cornerback. Eddie Jackson is recovering quickly from his ACL tear in the spring and he is the most productive returning option. However, it is under center where Alabama is getting all of the headlines. AJ McCarron is off in the NFL after throwing for 3,063 yards and 28 touchdowns during his senior season. Despite those gaudy numbers, Alabama just needs a quarterback who can avoid mistakes and get the ball to all of the playmakers. It looked like Florida State transfer Jacob Coker would be that guy. He has an amazing arm and his ability to throw deep is a nice fit for this run first offense. However, Coker has not been able to break away from senior Blake Sims. Coach Saban wants somebody to take the job and run with it, but it may be a few weeks into the season before that happens.

The Bottom Line:
Another place where Alabama could run into issues is on special teams, especially at kicker where Cade Foster needs to be replaced. Most of the time it will not matter, but in those low scoring close games against teams like LSU and Auburn, having an experienced kicker is huge and the Crimson Tide have no experience. With all of that said, there may not be a more talented roster in the nation and there are tons of upperclassmen that are ready to step up and replace all of the departed players. The schedule could have been worse; the Tide play Florida and Tennessee from the East and get to play Auburn at home.

Projected Bowl: Rose Bowl (Playoffs)

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 205.6 (25th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 248.5 (49, 7)
Total Offense: 454.1 (33, 6)
Scoring Offense: 38.2 (17, 4)
Rushing Defense: 106.2 (7, 1)
Pass Defense: 180.3 (11, 2)
Total Defense: 286.5 (5, 1)
Scoring Defense: 13.9 (4, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.15 (48, 5)
Sacks: 1.69 (86, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 1.31 (23, 4)

Madness 2015 NFL Draft Rankings:
#7 Landon Collins
#14 Amari Cooper
#29 T.J. Yeldon
#51 Trey DePriest
#56 Brandon Ivory
#84 Xzavier Dickson
#87 Arie Kouandigo

Madness 2014 Recruit Rankings:
#4 Da'Shawn Hand
#6 Cameron Robinson
#8 Tony Brown
#12 Bo Scarbrough
#14 Marlon Humphrey
#22 Rashaan Evans
#38 Laurence Jones
#60 Christian Miller
#65 Cameron Sims
#79 Ronnie Clark
#83 Ross Pierschbacher
#86 David Cornwell
#103 Shaun Dion Hamilton
#125 Josh Frazier


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