Alabama Football: 5 Biggest Early Season Storylines for Crimson Tide
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Although Alabama still tops the polls heading into this weekend’s mega-tilt against No. 6 Texas A&M, plenty of questions remain surrounding Nick Saban’s club.
The Tide, who enjoyed a bye last week, have their share of issues—most of which come from the offensive side of the ball.
On the other hand, the defense and special teams units were both dominant in the 35-10 rout of Virginia Tech in the season opener.
What are the biggest storylines surrounding the Tide?
5. The Kenny Bell Saga
Senior wide receiver Kenny Bell has been through a lot of ups and downs throughout his career at the Capstone.
He spent the offseason recovering from a broken leg that caused him the last two games of the 2012 season.
However, he sent shockwaves through the Tide community when he announced he was “hanging up his cleats” on his Twitter account last week.
As ESPN noted, it turns out that Bell took what Saban termed as a personal day.
While it appears that he is back with the team, it will be interesting to monitor his role moving forward.
4. Defense Looks Stout
One game is a limited sample size, but given how Kirby Smart’s defense looked against the Hokies, Alabama has all the tools necessary to be an elite defense this fall.
Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas completed just five of his 26 passes, and only mustered 59 yards through the air against the Tide. The Hokies amassed only 212 yards of total offense, with 77 of those coming on a long touchdown run by Trey Edmunds.
While the challenge will certainly be more formidable in slowing down Texas A&M this weekend, it appears that the Tide will again field one of the nation’s most dominant defenses.
3. The Emergence of Christion Jones
Entering the 2013 season, many observers (myself included) billed the Tide’s receiver unit as the most explosive group Saban has fielded during his tenure in Tuscaloosa.
Sophomore Amari Cooper is the headliner, but it was junior Christion Jones who stole the show with his three-touchdown performance against the Hokies. Jones scored on a punt return, kickoff return and as a receiver in the opener, accounting for 256 all-purpose yards.
Considering the attention that Cooper draws from opposing defenses, the emergence of Jones as another explosive weapon is critical for the Tide's offense moving forward.
2. Shaky Offense
Despite the heroics of Jones against Virginia Tech, the season opener was mostly an exercise of frustration for the offense.
McCarron completed less than 50 percent of his passes. Cooper had almost as many drops as receptions, and T.J. Yeldon was held in check by a stout Hokies defense.
However, the new look offensive line has come under the most scrutiny. McCarron was sacked four times, and the Tide rushed for just 96 yards.
Alabama has a talented cast of skill players, but unless the offensive line significantly improves, the offense will struggle to put up points as they did in the opener.
1. Answers Will Come vs. Texas A&M
Whether or not the performance against Virginia Tech was an aberration, answers to some of the Tide’s most pressing issues are likely to come against Texas A&M this weekend.
The offensive line gets to face an Aggies defense that has yielded an average of nearly 450 yards of total offense against the likes of Rice and Sam Houston State.
The secondary, a unit that shined against the Hokies, will face an Aggies attack that shredded them in last season’s 29-24 loss.
Saban has had an extra week to prepare for the Aggies, and given the hype surrounding this game, Alabama will definitely be motivated to prove that they are worthy of being tabbed as the best team in the country.