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Jumbo Package: Saban says OL competition continues, younger players are “more physical”

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Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

Happy Friday, everyone. Alabama hosts Vanderbilt tomorrow evening, as you well know. Your previews:

Granted, Alabama hasn’t looked quite its usual self on offense. Issues from the Texas game are still yet to be solved: there have been uncharacteristic penalties, the running game isn’t moving in top gear yet, and Bryce Young could stand a little more help from his receivers.

But the economy of scale that exists between an Alabama team not playing to its potential and a Vanderbilt team doing better than expected is still as wide a gulf as there is in the SEC.

College Football HQ Prediction: Alabama 45, Vanderbilt 10

Vanderbilt (3-1, 0-0) at Alabama (3-0, 0-0), 6:30 p.m. CDT on SEC Network. Alabama -40 1/2, o-u 58 ½. This is the third time this season Alabama has been favored by 40 or more points. Previous results, Crimson Tide wins by 55 and 56 points. We can see Vandy having to punt a lot, as did Louisiana-Monroe. This “challenge” may not be quite as one-sided as Utah State and ULM, but it won’t be close, either. PREDICTION: Alabama 42, Vanderbilt 0.

It’s hard to argue with a 3-0 start and winning by a combined score of 139-26, but the Tide have hardly been razor-sharp. You know how this program rolls – it’s all about working on the little things, and there’s still more to do.

There won’t be any loss of focus here for the home side. The Process won’t allow it.

The offense will keep trying to get the ball down the field with more big plays and more crisp drives, but it’ll be the defense that makes this a blowout.

Vanderbilt will be without offensive lineman Xavier Castillo on Saturday and will likely be without safety Jaylen Mahoney as well — Lea called Mahoney “doubtful” on Thursday.

Running back Rocko Griffin and guard Ben Cox are questionable. On the plus side, running back Patrick Smith, wide receiver Gamarion Carter and cornerback Trudell Berry will be returning from suspension.

Score prediction

Alabama 49, Vanderbilt 7: Vanderbilt’s more explosive offense will be able to score on Alabama this time, but it won’t be close to enough to contain one of the top teams in the country.

That last one is from The Tennessean. Being without both starting guards would be a problem for an already overmatched Commodores squad. In years past this would be a game that the Tide would use to work on the passing game, hoping to get the score comfortable enough so that key backups can get plenty of game reps.

We will see if that’s indeed the plan, and if so how well they execute it.

Saban mentioned on “Hey, Coach!” that he doesn’t tolerate DBs showing frustration after a missed assignment.

—”There are three critical factors” in a defensive back: deep ball coverage, tackling when the last line of defense and you have to play man-to-man.”

— “Everybody gets beat in the secondary,” Saban said when explaining how players have to bounce back.

—”A good way to get your butt chewed out,” Saban said of the “hand-clap,” or when a defensive back misses a coverage and claps his hands together in frustration. Saban said you don’t want to let the other team you messed up.

Never really thought about it, but if you’re trying to disguise coverages I guess you wouldn’t want the opponent to know who busted. This is why it can be so difficult for outsiders to grade individual defenders. It’s obvious when someone just gets beat in man coverage, but nobody outside the organization can truly know when receivers are supposed to be passed off within a call and when they’re not.

Saban also spoke about the need to get more physical on the offensive line, and it sounds like we may see some more rotation inside.

“I think that the inside three guys, when you play in this day and age of football, there’s a lot of zone blocking,” Saban said. “So if those guys cannot get movement on the two I and the three technique and at least move them, they can cut the gaps on defense where it doesn’t give the runner a lot of options. But if your down guys can move those guys, especially the inside guys – the center and two guards. When you’re running the ball to the perimeter, the tackle block becomes much more important.

“And that’s the thing that we’ve been trying to do a better job of is being a little bit more physical inside. Some of it’s personnel, which we’ve got a lot of competition there. Some guys are playing more physical, and I think that some of the younger players that we have are more physical and maybe they can help us down the road, as well.”

We’ve seen Tyler Booker already. Wonder who else might get a look?

Last, Mac Jones has seen some stuff.

Before he played for Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots, Mac Jones played for another one of football’s most grouchy defensive-oriented coaches in Nick Saban at Alabama. Jones said he saw RPOs make Saban blow his lid due to players missing assignments at times.

“I think it puts stress on the defense,” Jones said. “I definitely learned in college, just watching coach Saban sometimes explode at practice. He’s trying to tell somebody to do something, but his guy’s running a route. But it’s also a run. Is it a pass? So there’s a lot of cool gray area there from an offensive perspective.”

RPOs are great as long as you can block up the run on the front side. If not then the linebackers have little reason to react to the run action and end up sitting in your passing lanes. Amazing how it all comes back to offensive line play, isn’t it?

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.

Roll Tide.

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