Chattanooga vs. Alabama: 10 Things We Learned from Tide's Win
Alabama tuned up their team before their showdown with Auburn next week. Chattanooga wasn't really able to compete with the talented Crimson Tide roster. However, 10 things were apparent in the Alabama dismantling of a potential Division I FCS team.
Follow along as we explore the 10 things that could be learned from Saturday's destruction of the Mocs.
Alabama Held out Injured Starters RB Yeldon, DB Blue and TE Vogler
Running back T.J. Yeldon, defensive back Deion Blue and tight end Brian Voger were all held out of the game versus Chattanooga for injuries they have sustained throughout the year. It's a wise move for Nick Saban to try and get three of his best players healthy for next week's contest.
But in benching all three of these players, Saban showed that he knows he has great depth all-around the team. By getting his younger players some experience against another team's starters, Saban was able to get an even better evaluation of his future starters.
AJ McCarron Isn't Looking for a Heisman Win This Year
While other quarterbacks would take the chance to stat pad versus the weak competition, AJ McCarron wasn't doing that. On multiple trips to the red zone, McCarron would hand the ball off to his talented running backs for the score instead of trying to throw it in there.
And while he did finish with a good line of 13-of-16 for 171 yards and two touchdowns, he could have easily vultured multiple touchdowns off his talented rushing attack early in the game. McCarron may not get a great Heisman statistical boost for his performance against Chattanooga, but he is still the player of the game.
Kenyan Drake May Be Alabama's Best Running Back
Everyone talks about Yeldon like he's this potential top-round pick. However, Kenyan Drake looks more like that great running back people prop Yeldon up as. He's very intelligent and instinctual in his runs and has great vision.
On top of that, he runs with excellent balance and can break tackles effectively. He doesn't have the top-level speed most running backs have. However, he's perfect for what Saban wants out of his running backs in that he runs hard every play and tries to bust skulls.
Derrick Henry Is Going to Be a Terror When He Gets His Chance
As good as Yeldon and Drake are, Derrick Henry is arguably the best professional prospect of the three. While he's not the starter, the 6'3", 238-pound battering ram looked like he was trying to be Jerome Bettis against the Mocs.
He ran for 66 yards on his six carries and scored a touchdown. But that doesn't tell the whole story. He was able to create yardage out of potential negative plays. More than that, he has great speed for his size and could end up on a Heisman watch list before all is said and done for him.
Kevin Norwood Can Create His Own Yardage If Need Be
Kevin Norwood isn't a name that is going to come off the board very early in the 2014 NFL draft next May. However, he does have great tools to be an effective role player in the pros. The best of those assets is his ability to create yards after the catch.
On a catch in the opening drive, Norwood took the ball on a 15-yard slant and ran another 35 yards weaving through defenders to gain 50 on it. He showed agility and the vision to be a threat underneath as a pro. Add in some deep-ball ability shown on a 28-yard deep pass, and Norwood could be a true sleeper in May.
Alabama Is Deep in Offensive Talent but May Need a Better Quarterback in 2014
As much as AJ McCarron looked like the ideal Nick Saban quarterback, Blake Sims looks the opposite. So while they are using him as a second-stringer this year, the Crimson Tide may want to try and get someone to transfer in or get a legitimately good recruit.
Sims was unable to look anywhere close to accurate on his quartet of throws. His best asset is his legs, but even there, he's not a guy who is a home-run threat every time. If the junior can't figure out how to improve his passing in 2014, Alabama won't be the unstoppable force it is now.
Alabama's Defense Is Always Going to Be Nasty
The first string allowed just over 100 yards in the first half. The second-string defense allowed just 73 yards in the second half of the game. Between both strings, they allowed just 3.48 yards per play, blocked a kick and intercepted a pass.
The Alabama defense in the second half was mainly freshmen and sophomores, and it looked highly effective against Chattanooga. Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart does a great job of making sure that his scheme is always going to match his talent, and that even applies for the backups.
Vanilla Game Plan Gives Auburn Nothing to Go On
Alabama ran a very run-heavy, vanilla game plan to make sure that they didn't tip any information to the Auburn Tigers for their showdown next week. The 31 rushing plays used minimal differences in play design from one play to the next.
Add in the simplistic passing game and a pair of touchdowns being scored on the exact same deep passing call, and Auburn will be unable to use the Chattanooga game tape to pick up any tendencies. Auburn will have to scrap this game for tendencies and just use it to evaluate talent levels of Alabama's depth.
Nick Saban Is Having Fun on Senior Day...
Saban didn't show much on Senior Day in terms of new plays or in terms of actual schemes. However, he did make it a point to get as many players involved as possible. And he even made it a point to have some special things happen for some of the players.
The best example of this was when AJ McCarron was able to throw a quick out route to his brother Corey on a pass early in the third quarter. Saban needed to reward these seniors with some creativity for the multiple national championships they have won for him, and he definitely did that against Chattanooga.
... but Also Trying to Minimize Injuries
The Alabama Crimson Tide's biggest goal in the game versus Chattanooga was to minimize injuries as well as heal up from old ones. Outside of an ankle injury that Arie Kouandjio suffered toward the end of the first half, the Crimson Tide remained injury-free.
This will be huge for the Auburn game. They need to be at full strength when they face the Tigers. Despite looking like a better team on paper, that only matters when the best players on the team can get on the field and play to the best of their abilities. So health is paramount.
And in this mission, Nick Saban and Alabama succeeded.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.
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