Grading the Oklahoma game

If there was a higher grade than A+, that is what the team would get for their heart, intensity and character Saturday night.

While losing never feels good, I have walked away from more than a few Bama wins (East Carolina, MTSU, and Vandy in 2001) feeling worse than I did Saturday.

Teams that play for championships take advantage of what their opponents give them, and make sure they give their opponents nothing to use. That is what we saw from Oklahoma Saturday. They played as nearly mistake free as I have seen. And took advantage of every opportunity Alabama gave them.

Brodie Croyle will only get better. (Barry Fikes photo)

If you change a couple of calls that went against the Tide, Bama has a great chance of winning the game.

I would like to see how Alabama would do against OU later in the season. But, I expect these players and coaches to take a lot from this game that will benefit in the coming weeks. Another characteristic of teams that play for championships, they grow stronger from adversity. I feel confident that Alabama will get stronger.

On to the position grades...

Quarterback: B

Brodie is a warrior. He took a beating and kept coming back for more.

He still made some mistakes that I attribute to being a sophomore. For example, I would like to see him do a better job looking off his receivers. I believe he made good decisions on when to tuck and run, and when to put the ball where nobody would catch it.

The first interception mostly rests on him. The second was just a great play by the defense. Brodie is going to keep getting better and should really be special well before he leaves Bama.

Running Backs: A

These guys did the most with what they had. All three halfbacks ran hard and aggressive. Very soon, the Tide will have so many options in the backfield that it will be able to keep defenses off balance consistently.

Dre Fulgham caught four passes for 59 yards.

Wide Receivers: B-

As a unit, they made several nice grabs, but also missed a couple in key situations.

I loved how they immediately started stalk blocking as soon as they saw that Brodie was running. That shows they really had their heads in the game.

I do think they could do a better job coming back to help the quarterback when he is scrambling or in trouble.

Offensive Line: C+/B-

Oklahoma has a great defensive line, but Alabama let the quarterback get touched too much.

While the unit was obviously more aggressive coming off the ball, the linemen still are not getting to the linebackers and looked a little lost when OU ran twists and other stunts/blitzes.

But, this is the third OL coach for most of these guys, and the third technique they have had to learn. I believe they will get better as they get more comfortable and confident with what they are coached.

Special Teams: C-

Alabama's coverage was very good. And these guys will hit. But, on at least two occasions Alabama had players running onto the field late--one time it was the punter.

Regarding Oklahoma's fake punt, there should always be at least one player on the return team whose job it is to make sure the ball is punted.

Defensive Line: A- stopping the run, C getting to the quarterback

Alabama did a lot better not getting caught in no mans land this week. As a result, OU had little success between the tackles.

However, it is essential that Alabama start making life miserable for QBs. The rushers did make White hurry a couple of times and knocked him around a little after the throw, but the quarterback has got to have Alabama's DL in the back of his mind on every play.

Linebackers: A

This group is special. They fly to the ball. Punish blockers. And pound ball carriers. And they did it well and pretty consistently Saturday night.

Demeco Ryans (#35) is developing into an outstanding linebacker.

I believe Coach Bryant would use the term "slobber knockers" to describe this group.

Pass coverage was much improved from last week.

I can't wait to see these guys as they get even more confidence and experience.

Defensive Backs: A+ after the catch, C- on preventing the catch

I love to watch these guys hit. They will knock your dobber in the dirt.

But I believe they are going to have to knock the receivers around before the catch. On all the OU big pass plays, the receiver was untouched as he ran his route and made his moves.

It also seems like Alabama gives a lot of cushion before the snap.

NOTE: An explanation on the grading: With the exception of the quarterback, the grades are a composite of the group as a whole. Obviously, some players will score higher and others lower than the grade their position was given. The grades are also based on my observations as well as the opinions of several other coaches.

EDITOR'S NOTE: David Bittinger is a veteran high school coach, now teaching in North Alabama. Each week during football season he'll watch the games with some of his coaching friends, and afterwards pass along some of their thoughts/comments about what they saw.


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