Head coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide won three national titles in four years between 2009 and 2012. The Tide has been close the past two seasons making Crimson Tide football tickets a real value, but ultimately they bowed out in last year’s national semifinals to eventual national champion Ohio State. For Alabama to contend in 2015, Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin need to sort out their quarterback situation.
Jake Coker, who transferred before the 2014 season from Florida State, will enter fall camp as the favorite to win the job, but redshirt freshman David Cornwell is hot on his tail. None of the five scholarship QBs on the roster clearly established himself as the starter coming out of the spring. Coker failed to beat out Blake Sims, last season’s starter who helped the Tide establish a number of offensive school records.
It will be tough to top the offensive production of the 2014 season. Kiffin’s offense averaged 484.5 yards per game and scored nearly 37 points per game. Amari Cooper, the nation’s leading receiver, as well as Christion Jones and DeAndrew Young are all gone meaning the offense will have to replace its top three receivers. Running back T.J. Yeldon, the school’s fourth all-time leading rusher, declared for the NFL Draft, but bruiser Derrick Henry (6-3, 242) returns. Alabama also must replace three of five starting offensive lineman.
Still, Saban and the Crimson Tide are the preseason No. 2 according to most publications. The reason is simple – defense. Alabama returns seven starters to one of the nation’s best units. All three defensive lineman return as well as linebackers Reggie Ragland (6-2, 252) and Denzel Devall (6-2, 252). Former cornerback Eddie Jackson moves to safety leaving a hole that should be filled by the speedy Tony Brown, a 6-foot, 195-pound sophomore.
Saban is known as one of the premier defensive minds in the college game and it shows. Last year’s unit was fourth in the nation against the run yielding just 102.4 yards per game and sixth in scoring defense giving up just 18.4 points per contest. Look for more of the same from Tide in 2015. They will be tested in the SEC. They will face Ole Miss, their lone regular season loss last year, in week three. If the Rebels can find a quarterback, they could be dangerous with a roster full of NFL-type talent. Saban and the Tide defense will also have to contend with pass-happy Texas A&M, run-heavy Arkansas, and the up-tempo spread offense of Auburn.
Even the special teams are outstanding at Alabama. The Tide has arguably the nation’s best punter in J.K. Scott who averaged 48 yards per punt last season. Kicker Adam Griffith hit 12 of his 19 field goal attempts.
Once again, Saban and his staff brought in an outstanding class of recruits. Wide receiver Calvin Ridley (6-0, 170) may make the biggest impact as the Tide must replenish its entire receiving corps. Ridley, a five-star recruit from Pompano Beach, Fla., is an exciting offensive threat. Blake Barnett was tabbed by many recruiting services as the best pro-style quarterback in the 2015 recruiting class. He may become part of the quarterback race in fall camp, but unless he establishes himself as the clear favorite Barnett will most likely be redshirted.
Since going 14-0 and winning their first national championship under Saban in 2009, the Crimson Tide are 72-9 overall. They have won 10 or more games in seven straight seasons and do not appear to be slowing down. Alabama has not lost a season opener since 2001 but faces a challenge this year when they take on Wisconsin on Sept. 5 in Arlington, Tex. The Badgers face challenges of their own in replacing NCAA career touchdown leader Melvin Gordon, but will be a nice early season test for Saban and the Tide. Alabama will face the toughest division in all of college football in the SEC West, but there is no doubt that they can repeat as champion. The season finale with Auburn, the annual Iron Bowl, should determine the division winner.
The Alabama defense should be good enough to allow whoever becomes the Tide quarterback to grow as the season progresses. How much the quarterback grows during the season will determine whether or not the Tide will be a true contender for this year’s College Football Playoff national championship. Get the best seats to watch UA this football season at TicketFounder!