Fall is fast approaching and that means one thing in this Alabama, football season is upon us. Players of all ages hit the practice field this week including the two SEC football powers in the state, the Auburn Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Tide are coming off yet another stellar season under head coach Nick Saban despite coming up short in last year’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game against Clemson while the Tigers are looking to bounce back from an underwhelming 2018 with a new man at quarterback.
Alabama Crimson Tide
2018 record: 14-1
Returning starters: QB Tua Tagavailoa, WR Jerry Jeudy, WR Devonta Smith, WR Henry Ruggs III, RG Alex Leatherwood, RT Jedrick Wills, DE Raekwon Davis, JACK Anfernee Jennings, WILL Dylan Moses, CB Trevon Diggs, CB Patrick Surtain II, STAR Shyheim Carter, SS Xavier McKinney, K Jospeh Bulovas, P Mike Bernier, LS Thomas Fletcher, PR Jaylen Waddle.
2019 Alabama Football Schedule
Aug. 31 – vs. Duke
Sept. 7 – vs. New Mexico State
Sept. 14 – at South Carolina
Sept. 21 – vs. Southern Miss
Sept. 28 – vs. Ole Miss
Oct. 12 – at Texas A&M
Oct. 19 – vs. Tennessee
Oct. 26 – vs. Arkansas
Nov. 9 – vs. LSU
Nov. 16 – at Mississippi State
Nov. 23 – vs. Western Carolina
Nov. 30 – at Auburn
After finishing the regular season undefeated, defeating the Georgia Bulldogs in last year’s SEC Championship Game with an unforgettable performance from Jalen Hurts and knocking off Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl to advance to the title game, Alabama’s season ended with a disappoint, 44-16 loss to the Clemson Tigers in Santa Clara.
Saban is entering his 13th season on the sideline at Alabama and in an interview he did with ESPN earlier this week, he said he saw something in last season’s title game that you don’t ever expect to see from one of his Crimson Tide teams.
“I think we got a little bit away from doing the things that made this program what it was,” Saban said. “Playing with great discipline, being accountable, putting the team first and everybody sort of buying into doing the things they needed to and being able to do it over the long haul. I think we did that for a long time as a team but at some point in time I think our preparation started to wane and we started to create some bad habits and I think when you play against a great team like Clemson, you get exposed. I think that’s what happened so hopefully we learned a lot from it, and we’ll do a lot better this year. This offseason has been really good, and this summer has been really good.”
Saban spoke to the media following Wednesday’s first full-pads practice of fall camp and is satisfied with the way his guys have shown up so far. The Tide have been battling the heat to start off fall practice and Saban wants too to see if this year’s team can continue to rise to the challenge and play with discipline.
“I’ve been fairly pleased with the way the players have gone about their work so far. I think that one of the things we’ve got to do is get more players to play winning football even when circumstances get difficult. One of the terms I came up with is ‘run hard when it’s hard to run’. It gets hot, you get tired and they’re not used to that many reps, but we need those reps to practice until we can’t get it wrong not just until we get it right,” Saban said. “One of the things that we’re trying to establish that we talked about before is for me everything starts with discipline. I don’t care if it’s how you do flex, I don’t care if it’s how you run across the field, how you do high knee pumps or how you do up-downs. If you don’t respect that enough to do it right when you know that’s the right way to do it, how are you going to be trusted in the game to do what you’re supposed to do.”
The Crimson Tide averaged just over 45 points per game last season and put up wild numbers in almost every offensive category. With Tua returning at quarterback, his receiving corps remaining intact and a lot of talent in the backfield, Alabama is set up for another fun year on the offensive side of the ball. On the defensive end, Saban’s teams are always sound at the very least but there will be some new faces that have to step up in the front seven this season. With almost everyone returning to the defensive backfield, the front seven will have a little help finding their footing before the meat of the SEC schedule rolls around.
2018 record: 8-5
Returning starters: RB JaTarvious Whitlow, WR Seth Williams, WR Anthony Schwartz, LT Prince Tega Wanogho, LG Marquel Harrell, C Kaleb Kim, RG Mike Horton, RT Jack Driscoll, DE Marlon Davidson, DT Derrick Brown, BUCK Nick Coe, CB Noah Igbinoghene, CB Javaris Davis, SS Daniel Thomas, FS Jeremiah Dinson, K Anders Carlson, P Arryn Siposs.
2019 Auburn Football Schedule
Aug. 31 – vs. Oregon (Arlington)
Sept. 7 – vs. Tulane
Sept. 14 – vs. Kent State
Sept. 21 – at Texas A&M
Sept. 28 – vs. Mississippi State
Oct. 5 – at Florida
Oct. 19 – at Arkansas
Oct. 26 – at LSU
Nov. 2 – vs. Ole Miss
Nov. 16 – vs. Georgia
Nov. 23 – vs. Samford
Nov. 30 – vs. Alabama
2018 was a deflating season for the Auburn Tigers and their fans. With Quarterback Jarrett Stidham returning for his second year as the starter under center and some experience in the receiving corps around him, expectations were high for the Tigers’ offense. Auburn fielded a strong defensive unit, particularly in the first half of the season, but they began to regress as the season went on and more injuries began nagging the Tigers.
Malzahn spoke to the media after Tuesday’s first practice in pads and like the Crimson Tide on the other side of the state, the Tigers have been fighting through the heat to prepare for the season as well.
“We had our fifth straight practice today and went full pads. It was hot and I think it was really good for our team to experience that. Their bodies are starting to talk to them, and we really had good leadership as far as energy and getting through practice. It was a red zone day, we really focused on the plus 25 both offensively and defensively and I thought there were some good things really on both sides of the football,” Malzahn said. “We have a day off coming up, we’ll get our guys refreshed and then we’ll have a good scrimmage at the stadium in two days and that’ll give us some good information on a lot of our guys, especially our young guys. I’d say overall, I really like where our team’s energy is, and we’ve strained them. It’s been hot and that’s good and it’s been physical, which has been by design too but like I said after five days we’re going to catch our breath, take a break and get ready for our first scrimmage.”
Malzahn returned to the podium shortly after Thursday’s scrimmage and is looking forward to breaking down the film. Malzahn believes that he and his staff will be able to learn a lot from the scrimmage to continue improving as they move through fall camp.
“I think we went 84 plays, pretty much equal between the three groups. We got down to the end and some of the guys went with both groups and got a lot of good reps in. I think the biggest thing from my standpoint is we get a lot of great information today,” Malzahn said. “Not just on the young guys, we’re asking those guys coming back to raise their level so it’s going to really be some good information to watch as far as that goes.”
The most intriguing position battle being waged at the Tigers’ practices is at quarterback between freshman Bo Nix and redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood. No timetable has been set for choosing a starter but Malzahn likes the way they’re handling the battle compared to years past.
“They’re going to need as many reps as they can get back there and I think what’s different than some years is in these scrimmages, we’ve kind of already looked ahead at Oregon and some of the things we know we’re going to go to give them as many reps as we can doing them,” Malzahn said. “So, they’re more reactive instead of having to think. Our defense is different than theirs but still, I want our guys to be comfortable with what we call, and we’ll continue to do that.”
There are several question marks surrounding the Auburn Tigers as we move closer to week one, such as how a fully returning offensive line will respond to a disappointing season, who will step up to fill the shoes left in the linebacking corps and most notably, who will be under center when the Tigers take on Oregon week one at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. With another brutal schedule coming up for Auburn and the pressure mounting for Malzahn entering his seventh season, every week will be an important one for the Tigers this fall.
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