31 August 2008
If the receivers and tight ends had been equally involved in the offense I probably would have separated them. As it is a review of the wide receivers by themselves would be very short. The tight ends were (finally) a major part of the passing game, and with that in mind I have combined them here.
The receiving corps totalled just seven of the 22 catches by Tide players. Some games that would earn them a negative review, but yesterday they were as involved as they needed to be. The Clemson defense opted to shade their coverages out to the receivers which left the tight ends and backs open. If Bama is able to continue to be successful getting the ball to those players then defenses will have to pick their poison. Bama was also able to run the ball 50 times, which won't always be the case.
As a group the receivers played well. There were no dropped balls and Marquis Maze had two fantastic attempts - one amazing one-handed grab that was called back on a penalty and a deep ball that went just beyond his outstretched, layed-out finger tips. There were nemerous solid downfield blocks to go along with the seven receptions. All in all, everything that you want from your unit if they aren't the primary receivers.
The attention prior to the game was on Julio Jones, and he did not disappoint. Bama involved him early, throwing a screen pass his direction on the first pass attempt and 5th overall play. He made a fantastic catch on a crucial 3rd down that was reviewed after Tommy Bowden called time out to request a replay judgment. He also got wide open in the end zone for his first career touchdown. All in all a fantastic debut.
Mike McCoy was thrown to three times and ended with two receptions. His big play was a 24 yard third down conversion on Bama's final offensive drive that ate up more than half of the 4th quarter. Glen55 has talked about how poor his average yards per catch ended up last season. It was just receptions on Saturday, but his average was 16.5. Much better.
The only other receiver to catch a ball was B.J. Scott who saw his first pass on a screen play. The Tigers defended it well and it went for no gain. We saw more of Nikita Stover than I anticipated after a quiet spring. His downfield blocking is likely what got him into the game early and often, though a pass never went his direction. Darius Hanks and Earl Alexander both saw time on offense and Chris Jackson saw time on special teams.
The tight ends were the revelation, though. Nick Walker led the Tide in receptions with seven for 67 yards and a TD. Two of his seven receptions coverted Bama 3rd downs, including one beautiful play on 3rd and 2 where Bama misdirected to the right and sent Walker back along the left side. He also perfectly executed his role on a play fake at the goal line that got him wide open in the back corner for Bama's first passing TD of the season.
Travis McCall made a nice reception for a 3rd down conversion, though his role was mostly that of run blocker. Chris Underwood also saw time in Bama's goal line and short yardage offenses, showing a better ability to block than I gave him credit for.
What to work on for next week: Getting the receivers more involved will likely be a priority. I truly believe that John Parker Wilson took what was given to him and if Tulane gives him more opportunities to go outside he will.
Marquis Maze was able to get behind the defense twice though he and John Parker were not able to connect. Getting something downfield will be crucial at some point if Bama wants to continue to have success underneath.