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CFF Discussion - Updated assessment of Alabama's offence
Who's Alabama's alpha WR? What to make of the RBs? VP takes another look...
You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your f*ckin' fingers and say, "That's the bad guy."
- Al Pacino, Scarface (1983) / Nick Saban, Alabama football coach
What the hell has happened to Alabama football lately? That’s the question CFB diehards are asking themselves this offseason, and for good reason. I’m sure we all remember the sad state of affairs that occurred at the end of 2022, when the don himself—Nick Saban, resorted to publicly begging the CFP committee to let them into the playoff. For what reason, I will not know—a spanking at the hands of cross conference rival UGA seemed the most plausible outcome for a hypothetical CFP-bound Crimson Tide (that’s right, Tide fans, I said what I said).
Nonetheless, things unraveled as the Alabama faithful watched a program called ‘TCU’ punch their ticket to the dance, prompting a public meltdown from Saban himself live on ESPN. We all remember that one, right? The one where he talks about being the bad guy whilst at dinner in Miami with his wife and Lane Kiffen…
What you lookin' at? You all a bunch of fuckin' assholes. You know why? You don't have the guts to be what you wanna be? You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your fuckin' fingers and say, "That's the bad guy." So... what that make you? Good? You're not good. You just know how to hide, how to lie. Me, I don't have that problem. Me, I always tell the truth. Even when I lie. So say good night to the bad guy!
Ahh, Sabestar, what a character. He’s almost like someone out of a movie. At least the Crimson Tide proved everyone wrong by slaying mid-west powerhouse… Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl?
But now my Alabama friends tell me the program is back on track, it was all the OC and DC’s fault! Okay, then I suppose this program is worth an updated look ahead of the 2023 season. Actually — truth be told — it doesn’t really matter if Alabama gets back to being dominant in 2023—at least, not for CFF.
What we really want to know is: are Crimson Tide fans the only morbidly obese volume pigs down there in Alabama, or will there also be some on the roster too, and if so, who will those be?
So without further adieu, let’s get (roll) into it.
The QB room is not inspiring, but should be solid
Recently anointed OC Tommy Reese, by way of Notre Dame (ND), has his hands full following up two years of a Bryce Young-led Crimson Tide. His options — while not overly inspiring — are solid.
He brought over former ND QB Tyler Buchner, who was top-100 recruit in the class of 2021. He started the first two games of the 2022 season for the Fighting Irish before going down with injury vs. Marshall—a game that will go down as one of the most embarrassing losses in ND history. His production in both games was not good—he scored 8.88 and 22.44 points in each (standard scoring format). He did, however, produce a much better performance in ND’s bowl game vs. South Carolina, in which he threw for 274 yards and 3 TDs, and ran for 61 yards on 12 attempts and 2 more scores. All told, his output against the ‘Cocks (excuse me?) landed at 38 points.
So which one is the real Tyler Buchner?
Who the f*ck knows. Accordingly, he has no ADP data in C2C ADP tool currently, likely because he is going un-drafted in mocks. The fact that he was brought over via transfer is a strong indicator that he’s going to get first crack at starting. However, if I know Nick Saban—which, I’ve watched Scarface at least a half-a-dozen times, so I think I do—he’s going to go with who gives them the best chance of winning at all times. If Thundering Herd Buchner shows up early in the season, the leash is probably going to be short. So is he worth drafting in a standard re-draft? I wouldn’t.
If Buchner were to get pulled, some options behind him include Jalen Milroe—another former top-100 prospect in the class of 2021, and was the guy who got the starts last year in Young’s absence; there is also former 2022 five-star Tyler Simpson, who has yet to play any meaningful snaps. But what if things get really crazy? I mean like apeshit crazy—like, a true freshman taking over midway through the season crazy. That’s unlikely, but the Tide brought in Eli Holstein—a top 100 kid from 2023, and GA native Dylan Lonergan, who may end up applying his trade on the diamond rather than the gridiron when all is said and done. Both are options on the depth chart as things stand currently.
From where I stand, I think Buchner opens the season, if things go south, look to Milroe to plug the hole. If things go really, really south, then stay the hell away from this program’s QBs in CFF, and probably the WRs, too.
Running back room is loaded… perhaps too loaded
If the QB play isn’t up to snuff, that could actually be a good thing for the RB room, since it’d force the Tide to lean on the run game. Reese’s history is mixed on this front. He did have consecutive volume pig Kyren Williams in 2020 and 2021. Though overall, as I mentioned last time, his tendency suggests more of a preference to a shared workload. The room itself—as usual—is loaded, so we’re not lacking options here. In fact, I’ll make the argument that the room might be too loaded. A good problem to have, sure, but from a CFF angle, it can be the bane of any degenerate’s existence. We want capitalistic pigs who are overfed and overworked, not some bogus communal effort à la Marx nonsense.
The headliner is last year’s RB2—rising senior Jase McClellan, who is a former five star in the class of 2020. JM played in 13 games last season and ran the rock 112 times for 655 yards and 7 TDs, and added an additional 174 yards through the air on 14 receptions (17 targets) and 3 TDs (11.9 FPG). This was his best season of his career so far with the Tide, and there were even some rumblings in late 2022 that he was considering heading to the NFL draft.
What we can say with fairly high certainty: McClellan will be listed as RB1 on the depth chart for probably the entire season (barring injury, of course).
Problem: rising sophomore Jamorian Miller exists, and he’s ready to eat, too. Miller, like most of Alabama’s players, was an elite recruit coming out of high school in Tyler, Texas (a town that has been oddly kind to the Tide as of late). Miller completed his freshman season with 12 games played, in which he ran 33 times for 223 yards and 2 TDs (2.9 FPG). His pass game usage was minimal as he caught only 1 pass (2 targets) for -1 yard. Year two figures to be a big year for Miller, who—if he doesn’t make a move in 2023—will likely be passed over by the C/O 23 guys. Reese had three different runners carry the rock over 100 times last season, I’d be surprised if Miller doesn’t break that mark with McClellan.
Another problem: and this one is big a problem, in my opinion Justice Haynes might be the most talented back on this roster already. My personal beef with him and his family aside (Go Dawgs), Haynes comes in as the wonder-kid in 2023 who could end up taking over RB1 in 2024. He was used as a workhorse for most of his high school career at Roswell and Buford, so this kid knows what it takes to carry the hopes and dreams of a program on his shoulders. He’s going to be doing a lot of that in the future, me thinks.
He also has great hands—in fact, some in the CFB space (me) have dubbed him the “Black CMAC” due to the similar running style to NFL’er Christian McCaffrey, and his pass catching prowess.
I expect Haynes to see a steadily growing workload up into the bowl game (that’s right, I’m assuming Alabama misses the CFP again). What I’m envisioning is that McClellan will opt out of the bowl game to prepare for the 2024 NFL draft, clearing the runway for a young Haynes to carry the rock 20ish times for a cool one hundo and two tuggs against Miami of Ohio, in something called the Chex gluten free cereal bowl—thus declaring 2024 as his for the taking in the process.
There is also his fellow classmate—Richard Young, a Florida native (oh boy), who was prioritized by both the Tide and the Bulldogs in the 2023 recruiting cycle. As I mentioned last time, I am not overly impressed with what I’ve seen on tape, but what do I know? I’m just some guy who writes about CFF, so I’m going to defer to the coaches who know what their doing and assume Young is a good player. My opinion is that we won’t see too much of him in year one. Maybe he get’s a few carries in the cereal bowl.
There’s also senior Roydell Williams, who miraculously has not transferred. Will he be involved too? I think we see a three man rotation of McClellan, Miller and Haynes. If anything, Williams might be the third option in the rotation to start the year, before being superseded by the Black CMAC midway through.
So all in all, I am lower on McClellan than most in this community. Differing opinions are okay, and indeed it is actually inevitable in this format. I think Miller and Haynes cut into his volume a lot—a three man rotation each receiving over 100 carries is what I expect.
One question that CFF managers will have to ask themselves that they haven’t had to with the Tide in quite some time (maybe ever): what’s the offensive line play going to look like? Back in the day, you could trust Bama’s big uglies to consistently push more weight around than an overenthusiastic sumo wrestler at an all-you-can-eat buffet. These days, I hear they’re taking transfers out of Vandy. Yikes.
Wide receivers — a lot of options, no alpha (yet)
Yea, there is no alpha right now in this room, no matter how much CFF managers try to force that square peg down a round hole. It is what it is. The community flocked to UGA transfer Jermain Burton last offseason, thinking he was the second coming of Jameson Williams from 2021. Turns out he’s not actually that good (who would have thought—certainly not Kirby Smart, right?). Alas, he probably isn’t the answer for the Tide.
Then there’s JuCo transfer Malik Benson. He arrives ready to roll, and had a deadly stretch towards the end of the spring game (well, one drive actually, but who’s counting?). If I have to pick someone in this room, I’ll roll with Benson because 1) he is the unknown commodity who arrives with big production from JuCo and 2) the other options are not as inspiring (duh).
I like rising sophomore Isaiah Bond, another Buford product who found his way to Tuscaloosa. Despite being a GA native, 007—otherwise known as ‘Bond’—didn’t even so much as give the home school a whiff of consideration during his process, and was ultimately a late flip from UF. He is an explosive athlete with the ball in his hands, but I don’t see him assuming a monopoly on target share in 2023. He is a fantastic buy in dynasty in my opinion, though. Bond played in 13 games as a freshman, catching 17 passes on 32 targets for 220 yards and a score. Below are his senior year ‘lights from Buford.
The second coming of Jerry Jeudy—Ja’Corey Brooks, also returns. Okay, so things haven’t exactly gone to plan for the former south Florida kid. He had opportunities early in his career to establish himself and take the lead of this room, but his performances were inconsistent. He is a lock to be in the rotation in 2023, though. If I know Saban—and again, my resume speaks for itself (see above), he will not let a former south Florida five star WR recruit falter in his program and risk giving ammunition to his rivals on the trail. Brooks must be drafted to the NFL, is what Saban utters to himself every night before bed (probably). He’ll have some big games, sure, but I don’t see him taking a commanding lead either.
Rising sophomore Kendrick Law is one of many Louisiana kids to have been plucked by overlord Saban. The Bayou kid is built like a running back at the receiver position, which is always interesting, and he played a healthy amount of snaps in 2022. Through 11 games played, he was targeted 16 times, of which he caught 8 passes for 103 yards. How twisted would it be if he ends up becoming the alpha in this room? While I’d love to see it happen, I don’t think so.
There are others, such as true freshman Jalen Hale, Kobe Prentice, and converted RB Emmanuel Henderson. I can see all of these players cracking the rotation, but I think the players that are locked into starting are Benson and Brooks, outside of that it’s sort of a crapshoot. And even with Brooks, I don’t know that he’s always going to be on the field.
So, to conclude this section, I think Benson is the guy I’d target, but I actually don’t think there’s an alpha in this room. 2023 could be the year of adjustments for CFF managers’ expectations for Bama WRs, as I think the new OC and philosophy is going to usher in an era of spreading touches around. Or maybe it’s just the case that that guy is not in this WR room right now. I think Bond could eventually be that, but I don’t see it this season.
The greater concern is that the offence might be shifting to a more run focused approach, and the QB play is not going to be close to what they had from the past two seasons. Overall, I am down on this group for 2023.
TE usage should be better with the new staff
As mentioned, the new OC—Tommy Reese comes over from ND. So you know what that means right? Yezzir—TE usage (I think).
As it happens, Reese will get a brand new toy to play with in Maryland transfer CJ Dippre. The 6’5 rising junior caught 30 passes on 39 targets for 314 yards and 3 TDs in 2022 as part of a loaded room of pass-catchers. While the Tide have a lot of mouths to feed at WR too, we at least know CJ should be the top dog at TE.
While at ND, Reese had Michael Mayer finish in the top five of TEs in CFF during both the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Mayer caught over 65 passes each season and also accumulated 800 yards receiving in each. Dippre’s got a similar build (6’5, 257) to Mayer (6’4, 250) and should be used in a similar capacity. I expect CJ to be a safety valve for whoever the QB ends up being, and if the QBs are struggling that could actually be a good thing for TE production. I like Dippre in that ‘next tier’ of TEs after the top guys in CFF.
Around Dippre, there is rising sophomore Amari Niblack, who is more of a jumbo WR than TE. Rising sophomore Danny Lewis—best remembered from that bizarre Brian Kelly video—has a chance to establish himself as the second TE this season. I expect the Tide will be deploying more 2-TE sets relative to before, but I don’t see them supporting two CFF relevant TEs.
I will close with this message, if you see or personally know a Crimson Tide fan, make sure to be kind. They’re going through a tough time right now, and there’s no end in sight, I’m afraid. The expiration date on the Saban bonanza is soon arriving, with a young star lord—Lane Kiffin, waiting in the wings? Oof. As the old proverb goes, the end of every empire is preceded by maniacal ranting in Miami (among other things).
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