Minkah Fitzpatrick picks off Danny Etling (Photo by Stuart McNair)

After 10 years under Nick Saban, it’s hard to rank Alabama football position groups, including hard to predict an Alabama football weakness

Minkah Fitzpatrick leads experienced Alabama secondary

I spend part of my day scanning various Scout.com sites and a few others looking at football coverage, particularly in this somewhat slow news time. (We certainly hope it will be slow since between now and the start of practice in August, any news is often of the bad kind.)
I do that outside reading in part to keep up with what’s going on with the college football landscape, and particularly what’s going on with Southeastern Conference teams, but also to see if someone has hit on a story idea that would be interesting to Alabama fans.
One of the better sites I visit, Florida, has been running a series in which it ranks the position groups of the Gators. That is probably a good story some places, and one that can be reasonably rated.
It’s pretty tough at Alabama.
We recently noted that two preseason magazines, Lindy’s and Athlon, had ranked the positions of each SEC team. Both had Alabama best in the conference at quarterback, running back, offensive line, defensive line, and secondary. The Tide’s receivers and linebackers were both second in one ranking, third in the other.
So how would you rank the positions within the Alabama team?
Quarterback, first, maybe, since it is the most important position on the field? That wouldn’t be a bad guess since the QB corps is headed by the returning All-SEC quarterback and the SEC Offensive Player of the Year. The backups, though, are both true freshmen, Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones.
But how do you not make it running back with 1,000-yard rusher Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough, and Josh Jacobs among the returnees, and national high school player of the year Najee Harris joining the stable?
Those high-profile players operate behind one of the most overlooked, and yet most important groups, the offensive line. That unit has 17 scholarshipped players available for duty, including left tackle Jonah Williams (Freshman All-America last year), three-year starting left guard Ross Pierschbacher, two-year starting center Bradley Bozeman, and guard Lester Cotton, who started five games last year. Matt Womack, who backed up All-America Cam Robinson last year, heads up a group vying for that other tackle spot.
On defense, All-America strong safety Minkah Fitzpatrick heads up a group that has three returning starters in safety Ronnie Harrison and cornerback Anthony Averett.
The defensive line returns only one starter in DaRon Payne at nose tackle, and many consider him the best in the nation. He’ll be flanked by Da’Shawn Hand, who has waited his time behind the likes of Jonathan Allen, A’Shawn Robinson, Jarren Reed, and Dalvin Tomlinson, and a handful of those 6-5, 300-pound types like Raekwon Davis, Isaiah Buggs, and Quinnen Williams.
No argument with magazines that picked those position groups best in the SEC.
Our suspicion is that Alabama coaches are also optimistic about the other two position groups, receivers and linebackers, (plus tight end, which was presumably included with receivers, and the special teams).
The wide receiving corps is headed up by Calvin Ridley, but the return of Rob Foster and the showing by redshirt freshman T.J. Simmons and true freshman Jerry Jeudy really upgraded this group.
Tight end also looked to be an exciting position in the A-Day Game, perhaps the influence of new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who coached tight ends for the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots before coming to Alabama this spring. Hale Hentges and Miller Forristall had been a part of the offense before this season, and redshirt freshman Irv Smith, Jr., and true freshman Major Tennison were standouts in the spring.
There were heavy losses in the linebacker corps with Reuben Foster, Ryan Anderson, and Tim Williams also being NFL draft selections. But Shaun Dion Hamilton will be back as starter at middle linebacker and flanked by Rahsaan Evans, who has been a standout both as a backup and starter. Mack Wilson and Terrell Hall both showed ability as middle linebackers as true freshmen last year, and freshman Dylan Moses seems to be of the same cut. On the outside, there is talent and depth with Anfernee Jennings, Christian Miller, Mekhi Brown, Josh McMillon, and Ben Davis.
Although we haven’t talked about special teams rankings, Bama should be high up at punter with JK Scott returning for his senior season and in the return game with Trevon Diggs and Xavian Marks the leaders going into the fall. Alabama does have to come up with a new placekicker, snapper (Thomas Fletcher comes in with the No. 1 ranking from high school), and holder. Special teams should benefit with veteran coach Joe Pannunzio taking over as coordinator.
In our mind, it’s difficult to rank the very best position groups, and hard to say that any are not superior.

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