SEC Subplots: Can Alabama return to the apex of college football?
SDS kicks off a series looking in-depth at teams and their biggest subplots heading into 2014. First up: Alabama Crimson Tide.
SEC Subplots 2014:
- Alabama Crimson Tide
- Arkansas Razorbacks
- Auburn Tigers
- Florida Gators
- Georgia Bulldogs
- Kentucky Wildcats
- LSU Tigers
- Mississippi State Bulldogs
- Ole Miss Rebels
- Missouri Tigers
- South Carolina Gamecocks
- Tennessee Volunteers
- Texas A&M Aggies
- Vanderbilt Commodores
1. Areas of concern
Alabama has several concerns looking into the crystal ball for 2014. The offense’s biggest concerns are the offensive line and the quarterback. The offensive line was one of the more underrated weaknesses the Tide had last season. Obviously, finding AJ McCarron’s replacement gets the most ink, and Blake Sims and Jacob Coker continue to battle it out, with little separation. Is it alarming that neither has really grabbed the starting job yet? It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Sims starts the 2014 season.
The biggest defensive concern is the secondary. Nick Saban hasn’t liked his corners since Dre Kirkpatrick and Dee Milliner, and ball skills have been noticeably lacking. The staff is hopeful Eddie Jackson can return from his knee injury and be game ready, while also hoping freshmen Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey aren’t typical freshmen and can provide an instant impact.
2. Schedule sets up beautifully
Will Alabama have a major letdown in 2014? The schedule won’t allow that to happen. In fact, it sets up very favorably for the Tide, and if we learned anything over the last several years, it’s that when teams have favorable schedules they have to take advantage of it. And more times than not, the lesser road wins. The Tide won’t play a ranked team until week six against Ole Miss, and they play just four preseason ranked teams during the season, with Texas A&M, at LSU and Auburn looming.
3. Keys to a Ferrari
Lane Kiffin inherits Alabama’s explosive offense. Things will look similar to what we’ve witnessed under former coordinators Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier, but it’ll look different. It’s the same system, but Kiffin will put his spin on it. And with that spin, expect receiver Amari Cooper to lead the SEC in receiving. Kiffin always has that one receiver who puts up crazy numbers, and Cooper is the biggest beneficiary of that. Secondary, the backfield is loaded. TJ Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake are the names you know, and finding playing time and touches could be the most difficult aspect. Is keeping all three happy a concern? Not really.
Perhaps losing two straight to Auburn and Oklahoma to close the 2013 season could be addition by subtraction. Of course, leaders like AJ McCarron and CJ Mosley are gone, but maybe that’s the best thing for a group that’s starting fresh. The loss to Auburn will burn an imprint into the minds of the players, and that hollow feeling has run its course over the long off-season, as ESPN and others have played the Kick Six over and over. A younger, hungrier and humbled team is exactly what Nick Saban hopes for. Now, they have to go out and prove it.
SDS takeaway: Although concerns exist for Alabama prior to the season, concerns exist on every single team. Alabama isn’t alone, and they once again enter the season as the preseason favorite to win another SEC Championship. The schedule sets up very well, and Alabama has revenge on the dome for 2014.