Alabama Football: Grading All 'Bama Starters from the Michigan Week 1 Game
The Alabama Crimson Tide thoroughly trounced the Michigan Wolverines in a battle that was lopsided from the very beginning. Now it's time to arbitrarily grade the old and new starters alike.
I have to admit, I had my predictions wrong in so many ways. I predicted a 42-24 win for 'Bama. Did I underestimate the boys in Crimson, or did I simply overestimate "Meechigan"?
I certainly overestimated Denard Robinson's ability to run against Alabama. I had him pegged to rush for 120 yards with a five yard-per-carry average. He instead rushed for 27 yards on 10 carries.
As for his passing, it went as expected. I claimed, "Robinson will struggle to hit a 50 percent completion rate," and "Robinson is going to miss a lot against 'Bama, but when he hits, he will hit big." He completed two of his passes for 71 yards and 44 yards.
It was a crazy game with the outcome painfully obvious by the end of the first quarter. Even the most rabid 'Bama fans didn't see this shellacking coming.
So how did the new and returning starters perform in one of the best Week 1 stompings of the past decade?
Offensive line: Center Barrett Jones, left guard Chance Warmack, right tackle D.J. Fluker, left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, and right guard Anthony Steen played better than most offensive lines in the NFL.
They completely dominated the line of scrimmage and the highlight of the squad was when Jones blew up a defensive tackle and then a linebacker in rapid succession on the same play.
Running back T.J. Yeldon: Eddie Lacy was the official starter but he was clearing suffering lingering effects from his injuries and Yeldon received the majority of carries. That's a "starter" in my book.
He rushed for 111 yards on only 11 attempts and a touchdown as well as a 26-yard reception with a lot of yards after the catch. That is one ridiculous average.
He owes his incredible performance to the play of college football's finest offensive line. I'd wager even Rick Burgess and Bubba Bussey could have rushed for 100 yards behind those guys.
Could Yeldon be the first true freshman to win the Heisman? If Eddie Lacy doesn't heal up, possibly, but with a great looking committee of running backs he likely won't get the numbers. Don't write him off, though.
Quarterback A.J. McCarron: McCarron played like a future NFL quarterback, because that is what he is. It was a masterful performance but his stats don't tell the whole story.
He only completed 11 of his 21 attempts, but he did the smart thing several times by throwing the ball away when the play wasn't there and had too much pressure on him. That's what great quarterbacks do and it will go a long way in keeping him healthy.
He managed the game like an expert and made the throws he needed to (though with the running game clicking he didn't really need to), including a 51-yard touchdown pass to DeAndrew White.
By being wise and throwing the ball away when necessary and tossing two touchdown passes with no interceptions on 199 yards (9.5-yard average) through the air, McCarron has solidified himself as an exceptional quarterback and could be well on his way to becoming the best to ever wear a crimson jersey. Too soon? Not so fast, my friend.
Tight end Michael Williams: Williams did what he does best: Block. Nick Saban knows he has a tight end darn near as big as an offensive lineman and he uses Williams as such.
He only hauled in one reception, but it was for great two-yard touchdown. Alabama is sure to utilize him heavily in the redzone in the next 13 games. Yeah, I said 13.
H-Back Kelly Johnson: Walk-on and three-year backup linebacker turned tight end Johnson played his new role well. He nailed his blocking assignments and helped pave the way for the Tide to rush for 232 yards.
He tacked on one reception for 16 yards and looks to be the best surprise of the 2012 season. He didn't see as much playing time as the H-backs usually do as Jalston Fowler was (finally) used as a fullback on several occasion in the I-formation.
Wide receivers: Starters DeAndrew White, Kenny Bell and Kevin Norwood combined for 130 yards which isn't bad considering McCarron only completed 11 passes.
Bell had two catches but was the least productive overall with only 26 yards. Norwood looked just like he did in the national championship game with three receptions for 53 yards.
White was the star as he was the only wide receiver to haul in a touchdown reception, and it was a 51-yard catch.
The receivers played well overall but a little more consistency in getting open will be necessary in the future. To be fair, however, Michigan has some good and very underrated defensive backs including safety Jordan Kovacs.
Defensive end Ed Stinson: Stinson raised some eyebrows when he earned the starting left end position over senior Quinton Dial who many had slated to win it, myself included.
During his first start he accrued three tackles, one for a loss. He played well in controlling the line of scrimmage but he was most valuable for taking options away from Denard Robinson.
Stinson helped contain Robinson who couldn't get anything done on the ground. If he tried to run, he got stuffed. The rest of the time there were simply no lanes for him to take.
Defensive end Damion Square: As the old man on the Tide's defensive front Square was responsible for controlling the line and providing leadership.
He registered only a single tackle but his job wasn't to get numbers. He showed excellent discipline by holding his ground and providing Michigan with no options.
Robinson makes magic when defensive linemen overcommit to the pass rush. That's when he burns teams for huge chunks of yardage. Square stayed just close enough to make Robinson nervous without providing him the opportunity to make something out of nothing.
Nose Tackle Brandon Ivory: Jesse Williams started the game at nose tackle, but after suffering a mild concussion Brandon Ivory ended up playing the majority of snaps.
The 6'4", 315-pound former 3-star prospect played much better than expected. He dealt with his double teams well and the defense didn't skip much of a beat when Ivory stepped in to play most of the game at the defense's most important position.
He has room to grow but it's safe to say he has already surpassed the mild expectations he had coming out of high school
Sam linebacker Adrian Hubbard: Though there wasn't supposed to be much of a difference between the Sam and Jack linebacker positions the roles were significantly different on Saturday.
Hubbard, who was expected to do a lot of pass-rushing, dropped back into coverage quite frequently. This was likely due to the fact that it was obvious Robinson was doing nothing on the ground and the only chance the Wolverines had was through the air.
It would have been nice to see Hubbard make some plays in the backfield but I can't knock a guy for doing his job.
Mike linebacker Trey DePriest: I was a longtime believer that Trey DePriest wouldn't start as Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley would be on the field together most of the time.
Not only did DePriest start but he was arguably the best defender in the box on Saturday. He finished the game with seven total tackles, four solo and one for a loss.
DePriest displayed all the physical and mental qualities Alabama demands from their Mike linebacker, and he did it with gusto.
'Bama fans, enjoy him while you can because he will be gone at the end of 2013.
Will linebacker C.J. Mosley: Mosley saw the majority of the snaps at this position and quite possibly had the best game of his career.
Seven tackles, five solo and an interception returned 16 yards for a touchdown was the story of Mosley's night.
Mosley has just given us more evidence to suggest he just might be the best coverage linebacker in the nation. Will he stick around for his senior year?
Jack linebacker Xzavier Dickson: Dickson's presence in the match up was quiet for most of the game. He did not register any tackles but he performed well at keeping running lanes covered and Denard Robinson contained.
It would have been great to see him pick up where Courtney Upshaw left off but there will be time for that later.
He will make his presence felt later on but for now he played a great game while limiting mistakes.
Cornerback Deion Belue: In his first start Belue did well for most of the game, but was quite a surprise that Robinson didn't go after Belue more.
When he did, Belue fell for a dirty double move and his coverage target hauled in a 71-yard reception. Belue bit on the fake route so hard he went completely in the wrong direction. He made it look easy for Robinson.
Though he did well in coverage for most of the game, giving up a huge play like that due to an equally huge mistake is going to be tough for Saban to forget.
He couldn't have picked a better game, though, as he won't be making the same mistake against Arkansas.
Cornerback DeMarcus Milliner: Dee Milliner was the true defensive MVP of this game. His coverage was impeccable, save for one play where he simply slipped and fell. It happens.
The rest of his game was a wonder to behold. Let's put this into perspective. He broke up four passes in just one game. He broke up nine all last season, as did Dre Kirkpatrick. Mark Barron had five.
Denard Robinson continued to test him but he just kept swatting balls from the opponents hands.
His best moment was when he shoved Michigan receiver Roy Roundtree into the turf before the ball was in the air and subsequently picked it off.
Milliner's draft stock just shot up and he won't be back next year.
Safety Robert Lester: Lester was his old, reliable self and seems to be settling into his new leadership role nicely.
He stayed in coverage most of the game and let his wingman Vinnie Sunseri do the dirty work in the box. It's the same way he and Mark Barron played. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
He didn't rack up eye popping stats but with Michigan being forced off the field so much he must have been doing his leadership job well.
Safety Vinnie Sunseri: Sunseri made his share of mistakes during the game, including not being in position to help out Deion Belue when he got burned, but he made up for it by making a nasty tackle one yard shy of a touchdown.
For his first start he really couldn't have done any better. With four tackles, three solo and one for a loss, Sunseri flexed his football IQ well.
He was just itching to lay the wood on somebody all game. He is going to be a great successor to Mark Barron.
Punt returner Christion Jones: In his first debut as the starting punt returner, Jones showed that he is clearly the man for the job.
He averaged 14 yards on four returns. That's more than Marquis Maze's 13.21 yards in 2011, but slightly less than Javier Arenas' 15.41 average in 2009.
He's off to a great start.
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