Better protection could lead to more big plays for Alabama
Last Saturday, after Alabama crushed Fresno State by 31 points, Nick Saban was asked during his postgame news conference to give his assessment of the offensive line.
The Crimson Tide coach acknowledged he couldn’t give a definitive evaluation because of his sideline vantage point and the fact he had yet to review the game footage. So, instead he turned the tables and presented the same question to the reporter who had queried him.
The journalist’s response?
Less than 48 hours, Saban was back behind the lectern and again the performance of Alabama’s blocking front came up.
“I think that the offensive line did a better job in this game,” Saban said Monday. When I talk about finishing plays, there were probably seven plays that we have a hat on a hat, that if we finish one block, that play would be significantly more successful and maybe even an explosive, big play. When I talk about finishing, I think that’s what we need to do. Same thing in pass protection. We get a hat on a hat, we’ve got to finish, get the right hand placement, get in the right position so that we have a chance to throw the ball down the field more.”
Through two games, Alabama ranks 99th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in pass plays that have produced 30 or more yards. The Crimson Tide has only had one of that kind — the 53-yard bomb from Jalen Hurts to Calvin Ridley that resulted in Alabama’s first touchdown of the season in its victory over Florida State.
Then again, Hurts has largely refrained from going deep.
According to ProFootball Focus, only five of his throws have traveled 20 yards or farther in the air. And the only completion among them was the scoring strike to Ridley.
Against Fresno State, Hurts acknowledged, “We didn’t take too many shots in the game, but I don’t think we really had to.
“When we called them, I probably didn’t have enough time, but we’ll definitely take care of that this week.”
That appears to be the focus as the offensive line attempts to mitigate the pressure tactics employed by its opponents.
So far this season, Hurts has been placed under duress on 13 of his 48 dropbacks, according to PFF. The protection improved against Fresno State, whose pass rush didn’t pose the same threat as the Seminoles’. But left guard Ross Pierschbacher told reporters the line could do even better.
“I think some of it is just making the right checks and what they are doing on defense,” Pierschbacher said Tuesday. “They are moving a lot, especially this last week. Sometimes we’ll be in a five-man protection and they’ll bring a sixth guy. It doesn’t make us look the greatest, but work has picked up. I think stuff like that is recognizing and communicating the right way.”
“I think we’re doing good. I think we need to continue to grow… I think as Coach Saban has been saying, it’s just one little thing away, whether it’s one guy finishing his block or whatnot from being a moderate gain to a big, explosive play.”
Rainer Sabin is an Alabama beat writer for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @RainerSabin
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Published at Wed, 13 Sep 2017 19:48:05 +0000