Phil Savage talks Jalen Hurts, Alabama’s defense and Tide draft picks

Phil Savage talks Jalen Hurts, Alabama’s defense and Tide draft picks

Phil Savage always has football on his mind.

The former NFL executive stays busy as color commentator for Alabama radio broadcasts and as executive director of the Senior Bowl. Savage also makes time for speaking engagements. caught up with him Sunday in Huntsville prior to his taking the stage at the Northeast Alabama Fellowship of Christian Athletes “Unity in the Community Football Day.”

RELATED: 5 things we learned from Savage’s book on Nick Saban

Q: Which of Alabama’s 10 draft picks will have the biggest impact in their rookie season?
Savage: “I was at the Washington Redskins practice on Saturday and I saw Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson. They seem to be doing well. I think the gift of the first round was O.J. Howard going 19th overall. I think he easily could have been a top-10 pick, but he goes to Tampa Bay and he’ll have a fellow Alabamian in Jameis Winston throwing him the ball. I think O.J. is going to do quite well down there.”

Q: With seven of those picks being defensive players, what are the challenges on that side of the ball?
Savage: “With Alabama, I think it’s always a function of the depth that they have. While we are not familiar with some of the names – we know their names but we don’t really know their abilities. I would say that there are going to be a number of players that step forward. I’m sure with training camp starting this next week that they’ll be trying to sort out that front seven, in particular. In the defensive backfield, Minka Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison and Anthony Averett are all returning, so they need to find a couple more defensive backs to contribute. All-in-all, it’s never really about the talent, it’s about the experience, and I’m sure that’s what they’ll really be focused on going into the year.”

Q: What is the best position battle?
Savage: “I’m going to keep an eye on that right side offensive line. It’s sort of uncertain going into the year in terms of the right tackle spot. Matt Womack is penciled in there, but you’ve got Alex Leatherwood who is an incoming freshman who was there during the spring. I’m sure they’ll let those two fight it out during camp. I think the left cornerback spot opposite of Anthony Averett is going to be a position to focus on, because, to me, that will trigger what happens with Minkah Fitzpatrick; Does he stay at safety? Does he end up having to go back to corner? Does he go down play nickel like he has in the past? I think that’s going to be a key role for the defense this year.”

RELATED: Savage shares moment with “Tiger Jake”

Phil Savage speaks to reporters in Huntsville. (Natalie Boyette/

Q: What do you anticipate from Jalen Hurts in Year 2?
Savage: “I’m really looking forward to watching Jalen. I think he’s going to progress a lot through the offseason and during training camp. Once they get into the regular season, I think the area where Jalen will improve the most is probably in the short to intermediate passing game. With new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, I think (Jalen) just having one voice in his ear all the time and some of the nuances of the position, I think he’s going to really grow at the quarterback spot. We know he’s a great football player, but I think he’s going to grow as more of a quarterback in 2017.”

Q: How do you expect Daboll’s system to differ?
Savage: “They’ve had a number of different coordinators under coach Nick Saban. They all have sort of parameters or guidelines, but they’ve each been able to put their own twist on the scheme; whether it’s been Jim McElwain, Lane Kiffin or Doug Nussmeier, it hasn’t really mattered. I’m sure Brian will have some things and add some elements that we have not seen before, but I’m also sure he’ll rely on some of the things that we’ve seen performed at a high level for the last decade or so.”

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Published at Tue, 01 Aug 2017 15:35:43 +0000