With Alabama coming off its bye week, let’s take a look at some of our advanced stats on the Crimson Tide. We’ll focus on a few players who have stood out, but also point out a few areas where the Tide could improve down the stretch.
Anfernee Jennings has dominated since his return
In the season opener against Florida State, Anfernee Jennings sprained his ankle—an injury which required surgery. Amazingly, he returned after missing just two games and has been one of the best pass-rushers in the SEC ever since.
Entering Week 9, Jennings was third in the SEC in QB pressures with 21, trailing only Auburn’s Jeff Holland (34) and Vanderbilt’s Charles Wright (22).
His emergence as a dominant pass-rusher may have saved Alabama’s defense from taking a step backwards this year. During the first three games of the year during which Jennings was mostly absent, the Tide defense managed just nine QB pressures per game. In the five games since his return, however, they’ve averaged 23.2 QB pressures per contest.
Bozeman, Williams anchor solid offensive line
Alabama lacks a truly dominant lineman like they had in Cam Robinson a season ago. But center Bradley Bozeman and left tackle Jonah Williams have helped anchor a line that has received solid play from all five positions.
The chart below shows CFB Film Room’s Pass Block Efficiency Ratings for Alabama’s offensive line. This rating represents their percentile rank, on a zero-to-100 scale, with 50 representing the average score.
It’s rare for a team to have close to average or better production from all five positions. However, it is worth looking ahead and wondering how the right side of the line will hold up against a team with a dominant front seven such as Georgia or Clemson.
The performance of Lester Cotton and Matt Womack will be something to monitor down the stretch and if they improve it could have a significant impact on Alabama’s championship hopes.
Can Tide develop a downfield passing game?
Over the past two seasons, Alabama’s offensive coaching staff has done an excellent job masking Jalen Hurts‘ deficiencies as a passer. But at some point, they’re going to need their quarterback to make a big throw down the field, and Hurts simply hasn’t shown that ability.
Here’s a look at how Hurts has performed on throws at every level of the field this season:
Amazingly, Hurts only has two more 20-yard completions this season than his backup, Tua Tagovailoa who is 4-for-6 on his 20-yard attempts this season.
This was an area of weakness for Hurts in 2016 as well, which was easy to explain away as a true freshman struggling to adjust to the college game. But Hurts’ downfield performance as actually declined in his sophomore year. A season ago, Hurts was 20-62 (32.3%) on throws 20 yards downfield.
Levi Wallace has been this season’s biggest surprise
The Tide lost a ton of talent on defense last season and if this year’s unit was going to live up to expectations set by past units, they were going to need some players to exceed expectations. And cornerback Levi Wallace has done exactly that.
Wallace has allowed just eight receptions on 32 targets this season and has contested 37.5 percent of targets thrown his way.
The rest of the secondary has been less than spectacular in coverage, especially Anthony Averett who is allowing a completion rate of 53.6 percent. Fortunately the performance of Wallace and the dominant pass rush has helped mask some of those issues.