Alabama soccer panic meter — Rating the Crimson Tide’s most urgent points

AUSTIN, Texas — Nick Saban vacillated between delight and frustration as he met with the media following Alabama’s heart-stopping 20-19 win over Texas on Saturday afternoon.

In a cramped, windowless room inside Darrell Okay Royal Stadium, the Crimson Tide’s usually crotchety coach smiled and provided to assist a cameraman who was struggling to arrange his microphone stand. Then he proceeded to reward his workforce’s resilience.

“You gotta say that’s great from a competitive standpoint, I think it’s great from a team character standpoint,” he stated. “But if we’re going to be the kind of team that we want to be, that we’re capable of being, we’re going to have to play better down in and down out.”

And that is the place issues began to get prickly as a result of nearly nothing apart from Alabama’s grittiness appeared worthy of the No. 1-ranked workforce in faculty soccer. Bear in mind, they had been greater than 20-point favorites coming into the day. And that was earlier than Texas’ beginning quarterback, Quinn Ewers, was knocked out of the sport with a clavicle harm within the first quarter. Nonetheless, it took a last-second discipline objective to carry on and beat an unranked workforce.

When Saban acquired labored up — when he regarded again on mistake after mistake — he punctuated his sentences by slapping on the plastic desk he was seated in entrance of.

“When you’re playing games like this, you have to focus on what’s in front of you,” he stated. “You can’t worry about all the other stuff that’s going on — what people say, what they say on ESPN, what you all [the media] say, how much you’re favored in the game. You have to focus on what’s in front of you. You’re an offensive lineman, that’s the guy you gotta block. If you’re a receiver, that’s the guy you gotta beat. If you’re a quarterback, you gotta take what the defense gives you. If you’re a runner, you gotta press the hole and make the right cuts.”

Saban stepped proper as much as the road of a correct rant earlier than pulling himself again.

However will that change as soon as he returns to Tuscaloosa, sits down in a darkish room, clicker in hand, and evaluations the tape?

As soon as the aid of successful fades, simply how apprehensive ought to he be?

Let’s break down probably the most urgent points dealing with the Tide, rating the extent of panic on a scale of 1-5.

Penalties | Panic stage: 1

It was Alabama’s first nonconference highway journey since 2011. And yeah, the gamers needed to deal with a raucous, record-setting crowd of 105,213. Plus, it was miserably scorching. However does that excuse a whopping 15 penalties? That is probably the most ever underneath Saban at Alabama and probably the most for the Tide since 2002.

Saban wasn’t shopping for any excuses.

“If you jump offsides on defense, that doesn’t have anything to do with crowd noise,” Saban stated. “If you block a guy in the back, that doesn’t have anything to do with crowd noise. So a lot of them are undisciplined penalties.”

He began slapping the desk once more.

“But we have to be able to play and manage crowd noise if we’re going to play in this league, in the SEC,” he stated. “Because every place we play is going to be like this.”

Standout linebacker Will Anderson Jr. even acquired flagged, leaping offsides 3 times. Anderson, who dedicated a fourth penalty when he hit a participant who had already fallen to the bottom, stated he was “trying to anticipate too much.”

If a usually dependable participant like Anderson may catch the penalty bug, perhaps it is protected to say 15 penalties had been a little bit of a fluke.

Offensive line | Panic meter: 5

However what about these false begins? If Alabama’s line could not maintain its composure at Texas, how is it going to fare on the highway at Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU?

The Tide can work on utilizing a silent snap rely till they’re blue within the face, however the true concern is not penalties as a lot it’s efficiency. As a result of the entire optimism constructed up over the offseason, thanks largely to the addition of former Kentucky offensive line coach Eric Wolford, evaporated underneath the stress the Longhorns’ entrance seven created.

It was the identical sort of mediocre play we noticed final season.

Tide quarterback Bryce Younger was sacked twice and was pressured on 12 dropbacks. And the run blocking wasn’t significantly better. Except for an 81-yard landing run by Jase McClellan, they weren’t in a position to choose up constant yards between the tackles. Half of Alabama’s 24 rush makes an attempt had been for 3 or fewer yards.

With no apparent reinforcements on the way in which, the hope is that the road improves the old style approach: regular improvement.

There was a stretch when Alabama punted on six consecutive possessions towards Texas, together with three three-and-outs. And Saban was blunt about why.

“Well, we didn’t block ’em very well up front,” he stated. “We didn’t protect very well, got pressure in the pocket. Wasn’t very effective throwing the ball. Didn’t get people open. Probably need to do a better job from a planning standpoint, the way they played us.”

Vast receivers | Panic meter: 4

Let’s return to the “didn’t get people open” line. As a result of arguably the largest shock from Saturday was the underwhelming efficiency by Alabama’s receivers.

For the previous 4 seasons, the Tide have been spoiled at receiver. First, that they had the younger trio of Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith and Henry Ruggs III to lean on. Then alongside got here John Metchie and, because of the switch portal, Jameson Williams.

We noticed how properly the offense carried out final season when Metchie and Williams had been each wholesome and taking part in at an All-American stage. Williams’ means to stretch the sector vertically made everybody’s jobs simpler.

However we noticed towards Auburn and Georgia what it was like after they weren’t each out there.

With out Metchie’s certain arms and Williams’ harmful pace, defenses felt extra snug loading the field and going after Younger.

Sound acquainted?

Texas wasn’t precisely apprehensive concerning the deep ball on Saturday. Solely 13 of Younger’s 27 completions went to his receivers as a result of they merely could not create separation.

Fifth-year senior Traeshon Holden has developed properly, however he is basically a possession receiver.

Kobe Prentice is a promising freshman with some explosiveness, however he is inexperienced.

Jermaine Burton was speculated to make a Jameson Williams-like influence after transferring from Georgia after final season — and it regarded that approach within the opener towards Utah State, when he caught a pair of touchdowns — however then he disappeared towards the Longhorns, catching solely two passes for 10 yards.

Possibly switch Tyler Harrell could be a difference-maker as soon as he sees the sector. He reportedly ran a 4.24 second 40-yard sprint at Louisville’s professional day in 2021, so he has the form of top-end pace Alabama has been lacking with out Williams. However Harrell has been out with a foot sprain and Saban has provided no timeline on his return.

Cornerback | Panic meter: 3

The addition of former LSU All-American cornerback Eli Ricks in December appeared to take an already loaded protection and put it excessive.

The Tide already had veteran safeties in Jordan Battle and DeMarcco Hellams. Plugging in Ricks alongside an inexperienced however proficient cornerback like former four-star Kool-Support McKinstry or Khyree Jackson would make all of the items match completely.

However Ricks’ improvement was slowed by accidents, and Saban hinted Ricks wanted extra time to study the protection. And as soon as the preliminary depth chart was launched previous to the season opener, Ricks wasn’t listed because the definitive starter.

Judging by what Texas did within the passing sport Saturday — racking up 5 receptions of 20 or extra yards regardless of having to make a change at quarterback — neither Ricks nor Jackson nor McKinstry seem able to anchor the place.

Ricks did not present up on the stat sheet in any respect, McKinstry acquired an earful from Saban after he was crushed on at the least one deep ball and Jackson was pulled in favor of Terrion Arnold after he was crushed a number of too many instances.

The excellent news is Arnold greater than held his personal, racking up 5 tackles and a cross breakup. And there is nonetheless time for Ricks to be the participant he was at LSU.

“I got confidence in all of them,” Saban stated, “but when Terrion went into the game, I thought he did a really good job, made a couple really nice plays.”

Quarterback | Panic meter: 0

Panic? Are you kidding? With out Younger at quarterback, Alabama can be doomed.

Regardless of taking part in in entrance of a leaky offensive line and regardless of having restricted choices within the passing sport, relying largely on operating again Jahmyr Gibbs, Younger did not get flustered.

When hope was dwindling — when Alabama was down six factors after a Texas discipline objective and was coming off six straight drives that led to punts — Younger took over with 12:55 left within the fourth quarter and did not flinch. He marched Alabama 68 yards down the sector, rolled to his proper on first-and-goal and threw a dart off his again foot to Gibbs for the go-ahead landing.

When Texas responded with a discipline objective to retake the lead, Younger once more confirmed his resolve. Getting the ball down one level with 1:29 remaining, Younger accomplished 4 straight passes after which scrambled for 20 yards to arrange the game-winning, 33-yard discipline objective by Will Reichard.

Afterward, a reporter requested Saban why Younger appears to return up huge in essential moments.

Saban laughed.

“Why is he so good?” he stated, grinning. “I mean, if I could actually tell you that, I don’t know if I’d be doing this.”

Saban then proceeded to put out among the explanation why Younger gained the Heisman Trophy final season and is taken into account a potential No. 1 choose in subsequent 12 months’s draft: the way in which he research and prepares for video games, his understanding of protections, his means to increase performs.

“And he is accurate throwing the ball,” Saban stated. “And he’s very, very instinctive. I mean, he plays quarterback like a point guard in basketball. He’s got talent, but he doesn’t just play with his talent. He’s very well prepared and knows exactly what the game plan is and what he needs to do to execute it.”

However even Saban’s praise got here with a warning tacked on.

“You know,” Saban stated, “players around him have got to play well, too. Quarterback’s a hard position to play when players around you don’t play well.”

Younger has proved to be a championship-caliber quarterback. Whether or not Alabama is a championship-caliber workforce stays to be seen.