Alabama will open up their season on the road against Virginia Tech Saturday evening. While Alabama is understandably the favorite, the Hokies are confident they can compete against the top-ranked team in the nation (via washingtonpost.com).
Let’s take a look at some players who need to step up to ensure a victory for their respective teams:
Alabama: QB AJ McCarron
After leading the team to a BCS National Championship title, quarterback AJ McCarron will be looking to start off the season strong. However, the quarterback is currently dealing with a freak injury. McCarron has been using a walking boot to protect an ingrown toenail on his right foot.
You can see McCarron in his walking book on Twitter, via analyst Cole Cubelic:
Despite the “injury,” there is no reason to believe McCarron will not be on the field on Saturday, via sportingnews.com.
"So rest easy, Alabama fans. It's not a worst-case scenario. McCarron wearing the boot appears to be more of a precautionary measure than anything else."
While McCarron is no superstar, he knows the offense and is a consistent performer—a consistent winner. He needs to have a good game for the Alabama offense to succeed.
Alabama: LB C.J. Mosley
While McCarron looks to lead the Crimson Tide offense, senior linebacker C.J. Mosley will be leading Alabama’s vaunted defensive unit.
Mosley has had a solid career thus far, but has some added responsibility this season (via Michael Casagrande of al.com):
"Mosley, who's naturally quiet, will also be seen as a leader in the middle tier. He's the only senior among the four starting linebackers, but he'll be flanked by three juniors."
Mosley has always been good defending the pass (he has three interceptions returned for touchdowns), but now he will have to improve his run defense if he is truly going to be the leader of this Alabama defense.
Expect Mosley to have a big game to solidify his position as a defensive leader for the Crimson Tide.
Virginia Tech: QB Logan Thomas
Logan Thomas is Virginia Tech’s biggest offensive weapon. Thomas has a solid frame at 6’6” and 257 pounds and is a threat outside the pocket, writes Andrew Gribble of al.com.
While Gribble praised Thomas for his abilities, he mentioned his biggest weakness and the weaknesses around him:
"His issue has been control, as he threw at least two interceptions in six games last season. The cast surrounding Thomas is a bit of question mark."
The supporting cast Gribble is referring to is the Hokies’ offensive line. It is their duty to protect Thomas, and if they fail, Thomas will have to make plays happen on his own.
If Thomas receives adequate protection from his offensive line and avoids turning the ball over, Virginia Tech will be able to compete with Alabama.
Virginia Tech: CB Kendall Fuller
Virginia Tech will be relying on freshman and former 5-star recruit Kendall Fuller to contribute to their defense.
Fuller will be making his college debut Saturday and is scheduled to start at the cornerback position due to an injury to senior Antone Exum.
While making a college debut against the reigning national champs may seem like a daunting task, it will give the freshman great experience and allow the Hokies to see what they really have in Fuller.
Michael Casagrande of al.com agrees:
"How young Fuller handles the heat could say a lot about where Saturday's season opener goes."
Fuller will be responsible for slowing down Alabama's passing game, and if he is up to the task, he can possibly change the outcome of the game.