Rocky Toppled

October 26, 2015

Seven thoughts on Alabama's 19-14 win over rival Tennessee:

 

1) Derrick Henry is a better back today than he was at the beginning of the season, and for now at least, doesn't show the wear and tear that two-thirds of a regular season normally brings. His vision, especially, has improved, and it's clear at this point that his carry split with Kenyan Drake isn't going to be anywhere close to even. It's Henry's show from here.

 

2) Alabama's pass protection hit bottom against the Vols. Even without Curt Maggitt, one of UT's best pass rushers (injured), Tennessee was in Jake Coker's face all day. Cam Robinson clearly wasn't himself physically. The Crimson Tide's gameplan against Texas A&M a week earlier did more to protect Coker than the Tennessee plan did. Cam Robinson might need the upcoming idle week as much as anyone on the team.

 

3) JK Scott is back. The Alabama punter's sophomore slump appears to have been just an early-season issue. He's been booming them for most of October now, and Saturday was no exception. He'll need to be right on top of his game again against LSU in two weeks, but for now, Scott is back in a groove.

 

4) Jake Coker's development as a starter has been a bit slow, but it's coming. He still sees things a bit late at times, and his sense of a collapsing pocket around him can be lacking. But he's learning to throw the ball away more, and he's getting more comfortable with a talented group of young receivers. Coker can be effective when others are playing well around him. When his teammates struggle, however, he will struggle with them. As such, his ability to carry the offense when the running game is ineffective will depend entirely on the very thing Alabama seems incapable of doing consistently: protect the passer.

 

 

 

5) This is the best pass rush Alabama has had under Saban. The ability to get pressure with just four rushers is a big key for Nick Saban's defense, and this group, for the most part, has delivered that. The depth is downright scary -- there are second- and third-teamers who are showing an ability to get to the quarterback with very limited snaps.

 

6) Put Reggie Ragland right there with Rolando McClain, Dont'a Hightower and C.J. Mosley in the top echelon of Alabama linebackers under Saban. He has been making plays the entire season and is shown more ability to make plays on the perimeter than ever before. That showed up against the Vols, as well.

 

7) Calvin Ridley isn't quite on a level with Julio Jones and Amari Cooper when they were freshmen, but he's not far behind. With another year in the program to add some size and strength, Ridley's game could make a big leap forward in 2016. His hands and ball skills are second to none. Cooper and especially Jones were better able to break tackles with their size and strength as freshmen. But Ridley is just as explosive as either.

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