Anonymous coaches share revealing comments on Alabama, Clemson prior to title game
When analyzing Monday’s national title matchup versus Alabama and Clemson, multiple questions persist.
Can Clemson run the ball versus Alabama’s vaunted front seven? Will QB Jalen Hurts struggle throwing the football against the athletic Tigers’ defense? Will Clemson signal-caller Deshaun Watson step up and be the best player in the game?
Sports Illustrated was able to acquire commentary anonymously from multiple rival coaches — whom all spoke about the respective strength and weaknesses of both Clemson and Alabama.
Alabama’s pass-rushing capabilities are second to none on the collegiate level. The likes of Jonathan Allen, Ryan Anderson, Tim Williams, and a host of other defenders make slowing this unit exceptionally difficult.
It will be incumbent upon Clemson to protect Watson when he drops back to throw. However, multiple coaches aren’t so sure Dabo Swinney’s team will be good enough to do so:
“The offensive line is a weak link for sure. Two years ago I thought they were not very good. This year at times they’ve played a little better. They need Watson running on the perimeter to negate their offensive line. Their right tackle [Sean Pollard] is atrocious. I think Wayne Gallman is a special back, and he’s proven that. But they’re not going to be able to go up and down the field and hand it off to move the chains.
Another coach then spoke about Alabama’s defense as a whole:
“They get there in three seconds or less, every single time. They don’t have to blitz you. They’re not as good as they’ve been on the back end, other than Minkah Fitzpatrick. But they look better because they don’t have to blitz you. They’ve had better defensive talent and better defenses, but this one just rushes the passer and covers with six or seven guys.”
On the other side of the coin, one coach has questions on Hurts — and whether he can move the ball downfield versus Clemson’s pressure-packed defensive scheme:
“The guy can’t throw. He can’t throw. I think they’re going to struggle. He’s a below average thrower. If Clemson jumps out to a two-score lead, they may be the ones scoring on defense instead of Alabama. If Clemson gets a two-score lead, Alabama won’t be able to come back.”
New offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has been inserted literally two weeks before this title game. There are questions as to how ready he’ll be. One coach had concerns over this development:
“You can be rusty now. It’s game one and if it takes you a quarter to figure it out, it may be too late. They’re going to run the same stuff, but there’s a different feel and way of doing things. From what I saw, Lane communicated a lot and checked a lot from the sideline. They didn’t want to put a lot on [Hurts].”
A scout felt differently:
“I don’t think it’s as big of a deal as most people. He’s been there all season. He comes from the same tree. He knows the language. The plays will be the same. Can’t tweak much in a week.”