Here is a brief Q&A with him about the Tide.
Q. How does this team compare to the National Championship teams?
- It has similar personnel, really at all positions, except for one. That would be quarterback Blake Sims, and the dual-threat nature he uses in key situations. He won't play a flawless game and sometimes takes some reps to get going, but when he is needed most, Sims simply seems to make the necessary play to keep Alabama afloat. As a runner, he's as agile as it gets, though his burst and top-end speed is at a running-back level as well, which helps make up for his lack of size. As a passer, he's often locked in on Amari Cooper for good reason, but he's been able to buy all of the pass-catcher's more time when he scrambles to throw, which is often the case.
A. On defense, the scheme and personnel are similar. The defensive line is still the strength of the unit, with interior talents like A'Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed pushing the pocket and minimizing running lanes en route to some NFL hype. A consistent pass-rush is still not present, though blitzing linebackers have been utilized to mask that.
But the "feel" of the national title teams, which isn't necessarily within this group, is that classic Alabama style. Sure, the running back group is as talented as any with T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry, but the combination of power and an elite offensive line is not one a fan will notice. Lanes are smaller, both backs have been banged up and X-factor Kenyan Drake was lost for the season, so their power and change-of-pace traits haven't been showcased has much. Again, Sims' ability has bailed out the flaws of the offense up the middle and he could be a bigger reasons for UA's success than Heisman hopeful Cooper despite the junior breaking virtually every Crimson Tide receiving record this fall.
Q. Can you describe the difference between Blake Sims and more recent Tide QBs, including his importance in this year's offense?
A. I guess I gave it away in the initial answer, but the obvious is his mobility, but that's not the key. It's his timeliness. He's been clutch in pressure moments against Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn over the last seven games. It hasn't just been with his legs, or even his arm, but with his awareness. He'll scramble to the sticks, but only at the very last moment. The one-time running back is also very confident in his running ability, though he doesn't over-estimate some third down distances while electing to throw the ball instead.
Sims has been as accurate as most of the names SEC fans can remember, from McElroy to McCarron, but has also mastered throwing the football down the field. Cooper has been a prime target, of course, but Ardarius Stewart and DeAndrew White have down-field ability as well. Allowing Sims to dictate the offense is the biggest difference between he and the others, and new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has plenty to do with it, too.
Q. I keep hearing about this being Saban's best coaching job: can you speak to this?
A. Well there are some big flaws on this version of his Tide. In addition to Sims masking them, how about Saban going with Sims over touted FSU transfer Jacob Coker before the start of the season. Sure, Sims had backed up McCarron for many years, but never seemed to take the next step in the spring before Coker graduated and enrolled at Alabama. Reports said Coker narrowly lost FSU's QB battle in 2013 to Jameis Winston, so many assumed the Alabama native would walk into the starting gig. Sims progressed this summer, Coker would only flash here and there, and Saban went with the developmental option. Sims may be the SEC's most improved player after fining his confidence.
Other than at quarterback, there are holes on the roster on the field. Sure, there is a ton of young talent with so much recruiting success, but the offensive line group is inconsistent and often injured and the secondary has the same issues, though Alabama has survived the SEC West gauntlet. Once Alabama won the dog fight with LSU, there was a sense that the team would simply find a way to win every game all the way to the playoff. Under Saban, its done just that. It has edged opponents in shootout games, songfests and even when UA seemed to dominate MSU, it was able to hold off Dak Prescott's late charge. Sims' game-sealing drive had plenty to do with that one, too.