This is the Final Part of a Three-Part Series Looking into the out-of-conference opener against the defending National Champions.
Keys to a Miami Victory (or at least cover):
Attack the Weak Links of Alabama’s Offensive Line: The Crimson Tide return veterans at three key pieces of the offensive line - left tackle, center, and what is looking like right guard. That means one of the guard positions (likely left guard) and right tackle will be occupied by either a freshman or an inexperienced upperclassman. Miami needs to load up the strong side, which will be occupied by either Kendall Randolph (hybrid TE/OL mostly as backup so far), Dameion George (no games yet), or JC Latham (true freshman but no. 3 overall recruit nationally). Left guard is also expected to have a relatively inexperienced player compared to the other three-fifths of the OL.
Defensive Line coach, Jess Simpson, has not indicated much as to how the front trench will be aligned. The usage of Tennessee transfer EDGE Defender, Deandre Johnson, will be interesting, as he has four years of SEC experience. To that end, the EDGE pass-rush position is a huge point of focus after losing the trio of Jaelan Phillips, Gregory Rousseau, and Quincy Roche to the 2021 NFL Draft.
Give me a Manny Diaz defense and I’ll show you an improved Canes team pic.twitter.com/FC0NPrLlsO— Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) August 4, 2021
Defensive Scheming - Trick Bryce Young Early and Often: It is likely too much to expect the very versatile freshman with a pterodactyl-like frame, James Williams, to engage in various different schemes. However, Bubba Bolden is ready to take the leap as a leader on the defense and could be deployed in a slew of ways. With Diaz commanding the defense, pre-snap audibles and movement to catch Young off-guard in his first college start will be huge. Creating turnovers will originate from Diaz’s scheming, much like it did in 2017 against Notre Dame.
Similarly, Georgia transfer, Tyrique Stevenson, will likely need to be the lockdown guy on Bama’s top wide receiver, John Metchie III. Stevenson has immense athleticism and has made strides in the weight room (set the CB squat record), but primarily played slot corner at Georgia. He did play outside CB in the Peach Bowl against Cincinnati and has impressed during camp with his coverage capabilities. The rest of the coverage unit of Te’Cory Couch, DJ Ivey, Isaiah Dunson, and Al Blades Jr. (if ready) needs to pick up the rest of Bama’s athletic unit/pass catching backs and pounce on any of Young’s rookie mistakes.
Tackling and Finishing Plays: After the UNC loss last year, it’s important to get back to the basics, which is easier said than done against a program like Bama. To that end, Bama hired RB Coach, Robert Gillespie, this offseason, who was the man leading the UNC unit that put up 554 rushing yards last December against the U.
Even more, Bama lost OC Steve Sarkisian. He will be replaced by Bill O’Brien, who is a coach expected to operate a more traditional type of offensive scheme than Sark’s high octane aerial attack. Thus, plays should be in front of Miami’s defenders where the Canes’ back seven needs to finish plays as the point of contact. Miami must not only limit mistakes but also needs to play disciplined as they had penalty issues last year - especially of the 15-yard variety. Allowing a few extra yards here and there will result in adverse consequences.
Spread Out Alabama’s Defense: All signs point to D’Eriq King being more than ready for opening day. But coming back from a knee injury, he will need to be protected to both operate effectively and also to mentally stay spry. The projected starting offensive line from left-to-right of Zion Nelson-Jalen Rivers-Corey Gaynor-Navaughn Donaldson-Jarrid Williams appears to be the best configuration of experience and skill for the OL depth chart. Miami’s left tackle, Nelson, started his career in a neutral site game where he was thrown into the fire against a Florida Gator defense featuring defensive linemen Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard. His performance was awful. Now, with a few more snaps under his belt and many 2022 first-round draft projections, Nelson will have an even more challenging test in week one. Saban likes to attack from the interior so expect a busy day for Gaynor. With the deep potential of this front line, Miami must keep a player at home on pass plays. True freshman, Thad Franklin (6’0”, 240lbs), has the body to do this, but whether he will be game-ready by week one is another issue.
The OL combination could be well-suited to keep Bama’s heavy front seven spread out and preclude too much penetration. However, they are facing a lethal group, so it will be key to at least mitigate areas of potential penetration.
If they can keep that area in check, Rhett Lashlee appears to have the personnel ready to run his uptempo spread offense with weapons like Cam’Ron Harris, Jaylan Knighton, Charleston Rambo, Mike Harley, Will Mallory, and the immense depth at wide receiver. The pass catchers are thriving in camp so far so it would be nice to see some of the freshman and sophomores get some action. Lashlee is not afraid to get many receivers on the field any given game.
How the coronavirus is affecting Rhett Lashlee's implementation of his spread offense at Miami and the challenge D'Eriq King faces as a transfer quarterback: https://t.co/hoe6C2B8BE pic.twitter.com/2S5UQdNHae— David Wilson (@DBWilson2) May 1, 2020
Everything: In a rebuild year, Bama is still stacked and as good as anyone. Miami needs to get a little lucky in Atlanta in September.
Prediction: Alabama 37-26. It could be a cold Welcome to Atlanta but the Canes really just need to keep it respectable and take care of business with the rest of the schedule.
What will be the Alabama-Miami Result? (Alabama -18.5)
This poll is closed
Alabama by 20+
Alabama by 11-19
Alabama by 1-10
Miami by 1-10
Miami by 11-19
Miami by 20+ (this probably shouldn’t be an option)