Alabama Football: Grading Every New Starter's Week 1 Performance
Alabama trotted out 10 new starters in its 35-10 season opening win over Virginia Tech.
Despite earning a lopsided victory, Nick Saban and his staff will have plenty of details to iron out before heading to College Station for the showdown against Texas A&M next weekend.
The grades for the new starters on offense are likely to look a lot different from those of their defensive counterparts.
How did each new starter fare against the Hokies?
Although Yeldon is probably one of the Tide’s best all-around players and a known quantity, he made the first start of his career against the Hokies.
Considering that the offensive line struggled mightily to generate any holes, Yeldon’s totals of 17 carries for 75 yards and a touchdown is more than respectable.
Against a physical defense that consistently made first contact at or near the line of scrimmage, Yeldon still ran hard and picked up tough yards after contact.
After three years sitting behind Michael Williams, Brian Vogler stepped into the starting role at tight end.
Vogler failed to record a reception against the Hokies, and with the struggles that Alabama had running the ball, he and the rest of the offensive line unit struggled to generate a push against a stout Hokies' defensive line.
Moving forward, Vogler has to improve his physicality as a blocker to help support an offensive line unit that is still in transition.
Jalston Fowler earned the starting job at H-back, and he managed to see action in the backfield as well.
It was his first action since tearing his ACL nearly one year ago against Western Kentucky.
Fowler carried three times for just one yard, and his only reception was stopped for no gain. Despite his statistical output, Fowler had a kick-out block on Yeldon’s first quarter touchdown run.
Starting next to his brother and left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, Arie Kouandjio filled the void left by Chance Warmack at left guard.
Much like the entire offensive line unit, Arie Kouandjio struggled mightily against a talented Hokies' front four.
He appeared to be a step slow when he was asked to pull on running plays, and he was replaced in favor of senior Kellen Williams in the second half, according to ESPN’s Alex Scarborough via Twitter.
It will be interesting to see which player starts at left guard against Texas A&M in two weeks.
Ryan Kelly has the unenviable task of replacing Barrett Jones, who is one of the most decorated linemen in school history.
Considering that the Tide failed to eclipse 100 yards rushing against the Hokies, Kelly and his cohorts have a lot of work to do in order to become a solid unit.
Hokies' defensive tackles Luther Maddy and Derrick Hopkins were consistently getting penetration and making plays in the Tide’s backfield.
As B/R’s Michael Felder pointed out on Twitter, much of the credit for the Tide’s issues up front have to do with how well the Hokies' defensive line played.
Of all the newcomers on the offensive line, Shepherd appeared to be the most prepared to enter his role as a starter.
However, he still had moments where he appeared overwhelmed, as Aaron Suttles of TideSports.com noted via Twitter.
Considering that Virginia Tech’s defense may be the most talented and experienced group Alabama will see this season, the offensive line has a good chance to correct its mistakes and get better with each outing.
While the Tide’s offensive line struggled against Virginia Tech, the defensive line smothered a green Hokies' offensive line.
Junior defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan was able to consistently generate a push.
While Pagan only recorded two tackles, he was able to put forth a solid effort in his first game as a starter. The Tide only had two sacks, but Pagan was part of a line that delivered consistent pressure and rarely allowed Logan Thomas a chance to step into his throws.
After backing up Jesse Williams and Josh Chapman for the last two seasons, Brandon Ivory made his debut as the Tide’s starter at nose guard.
Although Alabama did allow Virginia Tech’s Trey Edmunds to gash them for 132 yards rushing and a score, he was largely held in check after a 77-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Outside of that one long run, the Hokies averaged less than three yards per carry on rest of its 32 rushing attempts.
Ivory recorded two tackles and played a pivotal role in helping Alabama’s defensive line control the line of scrimmage.
Despite missing most of the offseason recovering from a toe injury, senior John Fulton entered his first start on a high note after a strong fall camp.
Aside from one blown coverage in which Thomas overthrew a wide open receiver, Fulton delivered a strong effort against the Hokies.
Fulton recorded five tackles, including one for loss, and played soundly in run support and in coverage.
With starting nickel corner Geno Smith suspended for the season-opener, Jarrick Williams stepped into his spot and played like a veteran who has been in the defense for three seasons.
Williams had three tackles and a pass breakup lining up in the Tide’s star position.
With Smith’s return, Williams gives Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart a little more flexibility in combating spread offenses who line up three or more receivers against the Tide.
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