August 24, 2018 7:38:28 AM
You might find this hard to believe, but Alabama has a good football team. Big news, I know.
In a shocking development, research shows Alabama does have offensive players other than Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts. And those players are really, really good at football.
It starts at wide receiver with a trio of sophomores -- Henry Ruggs III, Devonta Smith and Jerry Jeudy -- coming back and poised to have a big role. (Jeudy and Ruggs III were Alabama's No. 2 and 3 receivers last year.) There's also freshman Jaylan Waddle that has made a name for himself in preseason practice.
Don't get me started on running back. Returning Damien Harris -- he of 1,000 yards last season and 1,037 the year before -- would be enough for most schools, but returning Najee Harris and Josh Jacobs behind him makes it even more insane.
The offensive line is also stacked. Jonah Williams and Ross Pierschbacher are First Team All-SEC guys and they're going to fill the other three spots with experience, be it Matt Womack, Alex Leatherwood, Jedrick Wills Jr., Lester Cotton Sr. or someone else.
Alabama also settled into a setup at tight end last season with Irv Smith Jr., Hale Hentges, Miller Forristall and Major Tennison, and they all return.
I guess all that leaves is quarterback. Too bad there's nothing to talk about there. Well, I guess that's it for the Alabama offense.
If you're looking at Alabama's secondary as one of the best in the nation in the preseason, you're operating entirely on the benefit of the doubt.
Ronnie Harrison, the team's leading tackler last year -- gone. Minkah Fitzpatrick, No. 4 tackler and the secondary's alpha leader -- gone. Rotation safety Hootie Jones -- gone. Levi Wallace and his three interceptions -- gone. Anthony Averett -- gone. Alabama is going to be looking to junior Deionte Thompson, Trevon Diggs (the brother of Vikings receiver Stefon), JUCO transfer Saivion Smith, sophomore Xavier McKinney and junior Shyheim Carter to keep this tradition going.
At least the defensive line will be solid. Raekwon Davis made a name for himself on the national stage last season, and he'll be surrounded by established talents in Isaiah Buggs, Johnny Dwight, Quinnen Williams and LaBryan Ray.
Linebacker was decimated by injury last season and is off to a similar start this season, but it still has excellent players in Mack Wilson, Anfernee Jennings and Dylan Moses. There's also the immediate help of Washington transfer Ale Kaho and a much hyped freshman, Eyabi Anoma.
This defense will stop the run, for sure. I assume it will do well against the pass, too, but that's the only legitimate question you can pose for this defense at this point.
Both of Alabama'a kickers are gone. At placekicker, that's a good thing, as the Tide continues to struggle there. At punter, that's a bad thing, as JK Scott is finally gone after a heck of a career. Naturally with talent like this running around, there are a lot of options for the return man jobs, but other than Trevon Diggs, nothing is a sure bet at the moment.
I do wonder how that brand-new secondary is going to fare against Ole Miss' receiving corps in Week 3, but beyond that, I think Alabama has earned the benefit of the doubt in terms of having guys ready to go by the time MSU gets their shot in November.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson