Football Phil Steele ranks each Alabama position unit in 2018

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Phil Steele ranks each Alabama position unit in 2018




If you haven't purchased or at least flipped through a Phil Steele College Football Preview magazine over the years, are you really a fan? That hard-to-miss full color gridiron bible is available everywhere periodicals are sold from now through September and is jam-packed with roster information and predictions on the upcoming season.

For the novice in need of reference points about any team, Steele's preview is a must-read.

Arguably one of his most interesting features each season is his ranking of each of the top position units in college football. Steele ranks them nationally with a short breakdown of each unit that makes the top 15 in its specific area.

Those areas are quarterback, running back, receiver, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, defensive back and special teams. He also projects rushing and passing totals for each team's offense and defense based on their talent and schedule as well as projected points scored and points surrendered.

Last season, he accurately predicted a national championship for Alabama and likes the Crimson Tide's chances once again.

Below, BamaOnLine examines where Steele has Alabama ranked at each position and we share our take on whether or not we agree.

SLIDE1 of 10QUARTERBACKS

(Photo: Stuart McNair, 247Sports)

Steele's national rank: No. 13

Steele says: "Whether Tua Tagovailoa or Jalen Hurts starts, Bama feels good at QB. The pair combined for a sterling 28-3 touchdown to interception ratio, 988 rush yards and 10 TDs on the ground in 2017. Hurts has a 26-2 mark as the starter, while Tagovailoa threw the game-winning touchdown pass to be Georgia for last year's national title."

247Sports national analyst Brad Crawford's take: I took some flack for putting Tagovailoa No. 1 in my preseason SEC QB Rankings earlier this month since he hasn't been announced as Alabama's starter, but there's a reason the sophomore is on the Heisman frontrunner list. He isAlabama's best passing option and played well throughout spring before his hand injury, carrying on some of the momentum gained in the national championship game. That was a changing of the guard moment for the position in Tuscaloosa and everyone knew it.

SLIDE2 of 10RUNNING BACKS

Steele's national rank: No. 2

Steele says: "Never light on backfield depth, Bama is loaded at running back once more. Damien Harris passed on the NFL after rushing for a team-best 1,000 yards and 11 TDs. Pushing Harris is Najee Harris, who went for 370 and three scores last year in his debut season. Even third-stringer Josh Jacobs has flashed, going for 567 (6.7 YPC) and four touchdowns in 2016."

247Sports: Is there a chance Damien Harris isn't the bell cow this season for the Crimson Tide? Najee Harris says he considered transferring after a tumultuous campaign ended without as many touches as expected for one of the nation's top freshman ballcarriers. He's out to prove he is Alabama's most complete back and will battle Damien Harris and Jacobs this season for that honor. The Harris duo is the SEC's best and both could exceed 1,000 yards rushing this fall.

SLIDE3 of 10WIDE RECEIVERS

(Photo: Denon McMillan, 247Sports)

Steele's national rank: No. 20

247Sports: FYI — When a position group is positioned outside of the Top 15, they don't get a blurb in Steele's mag. And I don't understand the absurd ranking at No. 20 here. The Crimson Tide must replace first-round pick Calvin Ridley, who had 43 more catches than his next closest teammate, but even his numbers were down due to inconsistent play from Hurts. That changes this season if Tagovailoa gets most of the reps. Henry Ruggs and title-game hero DeVonta Smith each averaged better than 19 yards per grab as freshmen and look the part as potential breakout players.

SLIDE4 of 10DEFENSIVE LINE

(Photo: Denon, 247Sports)

Steele's national rank: No. 4

Steele says: "Few schools retool on D faster than the Tide. Every year Bama loses linemen to the NFL and every year it stuffs the run, leading the FBS in 2017 (94.7 yards allowed; 2.7 YPC). The new stars at DE are fourth team All-American Raekwon Davis and former JUCO star Isaiah Buggs. Powerful senior Johnny Dwight takes over at NG."

247Sports: Like the Energizer bunny, Alabama keeps going and going and going with talent up front. I'm convinced the Crimson Tide puts defensive linemen into a machine inside the football facility as soon as they step on campus and they emerge as future All-SEC stars. Or something like that. Once again, Alabama will be an immovable force up front. Only Auburn and Mississippi State's edge rushers are comparable from a talent standpoint across the West. Alabama placed second in the SEC last season in sacks and total tackles for losses, so there's something to shoot for this fall.

SLIDE5 of 10OFFENSIVE LINE

(Photo: Icon Sportswire, Getty)

Steele's national rank: No. 3

Steele says: "Recruiting ensures the Tide is perennially strong at the point of attack. Bama returns four starters from a group that averaged 251 yards rushing per game . Fierce LT Jonah Williams earned third team All-American honors and could be a top piayer. The opening at center should be filled by Ross Pierschbacher, who has 42 career starts at LG."

247Sports: Even at No. 3 overall, I feel this could be Alabama's most underrated position group this fall. If the lineup looks like the 1s we saw at the end of spring, from left to right the Crimson Tide's starters will be Williams, Lester Cotton, Pierschbacher, Jedrick Wills and Alex Leatherwood. one major question is if Womack will return to the starting lineup after being sidelined all 15 practices with a foot injury? Alabama has recruited strongly at the position and there's depth up front in case one of these five blockers go down.

SLIDE6 of 10LINEBACKERS

(Photo: Icon Sportswire, Getty)

Steele's national rank: No. 1

Steele says: "Never light on top-flight LBs, Bama is again stacked at the position. Nick Saban gets reps for a lot of players, making for a smoother transition into the lineup. The Tide will start two top-ranked defenders, Dylan Moses and Mack Wilson, and relentless Anfernee Jennings, Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis will garner plenty of interest from NFL scouts."

247Sports: Anywhere but No. 1 for Alabama's linebacker group would've been wrong. These guys are scary athletic and there's plenty of depth. Steele hits the nail on the head here by mentioning a couple potential superstars in the middle of Saban's defense. Wilson will get much of the pub this season and rightfully so, but Lewis is special as well. And Moses could be an All-SEC player by the end of the season. Last year's injury issues at linebacker were a blessing in disguise for a few young guns who received vital experience in spotlight situations.

SLIDE7 of 10DEFENSIVE BACKS

(Photo: Stuart McNair, 247Sports)

Steele's national rank: No. 8

Steele says: "Who's got next? The Tide secondary is being overhauled, though this unit always ranks among the nation's toughest. Bama boasts its usual haul of elite players. The new CBs are Trevon Diggs and Saivion Smith, who began at LSU. A thin safety crew features Deionte Thompson, Xavier McKinney and Patrick Surtain."

247Sports: Perceived as Alabama's biggest question entering the season, perhaps worry in the secondary is being overplayed a bit. It's not as bad as we think according to Steele, who says the Crimson Tide's talent at the back end is the eighth-best in college football (and second only to LSU in the SEC). Several of the aforementioned players expected to see a ton of snaps this season are versatile, but Surtain should spend most of his time at corner. By mid-October, Alabama should be elite in coverage when players are comfortable with each other and rotations are set in stone.

SLIDE8 of 10SPECIAL TEAMS

(Photo: Denon McMillan, 247Sports)

Steele's national rank: 53

247Sports: Without going back a decade, I'm going to guess this is Alabama's lowest position group ranking in the Saban era. Outside the Top 50 sounds a bit outlandish considering how well this unit will be coached, but Steele's reasoning probably has something to do with all-everything punter JK Scott and senior kicker Andy Pappanastos exiting the program. New Alabama special teams coach Jeff Banks has a dilemma heading into August — who starts in the return game? Xavian Marks is one of Alabama's most versatile players, but he'll be competing for special teams reps with Trevon Diggs and Henry Ruggs III, who both have return experience. Incoming freshman Jaylen Waddle will see the field and get a look there, too.

SLIDE9 of 10OVERALL OFFENSIVE PREDICTIONS

(Photo: Kevin C. Cox, Getty)

Rushing yards per game: 286.3 (1st in SEC)

Passing yards per game: 248.3 (8th in SEC)

Total yards per game: 534.6 (1st in SEC)

Points per game: 41.6 (1st in SEC)

247Sports take: If these numbers stick, this would statistically be the most explosive Alabama offense in program history, lofty projections considering Saban hasn't even announced his starting quarterback yet. And it would undoubtedly get first-year OC Mike Locksley a raise. But as Steele has previously mentioned, does it really matter who gets most of the reps between Tagovailoa and Hurts? The Damien Harris-Najee Harris combo will be filthy behind one of the nation's top offensive lines and will have plenty of room to run if the Crimson Tide's passing game is a threat downfield.

SLIDE10 of 10OVERALL DEFENSIVE PREDICTIONS
(Photo: Stuart McNair, 247Sports)
Rushing yards allowed per game: 77.6 (1st in SEC)

Passing yards allowed per game: 219.8 (9th in SEC)

Points allowed per game: 17.8 (1st in SEC)

247Sports take: So Steele ranks Alabama's new-look secondary as the nation's 8th-best, but slots the Crimson Tide's pass defense at No. 9 in the SEC this season in yards allowed through the air? Something isn't adding up here. But if Steele's projection comes to fruition, it would be Alabama's worst secondary since 2014 (226 yards allowed per game). We're expecting considerably better numbers at the back end due in large part to Alabama's strength up front. This will be one of Saban's most complete defenses during his tenure as long as the pass rush produces sizable numbers.
 

BamaFan334

Verified Member
#3
I for the life of me can't understand how we are ranked so low at Quarterback and Receiver, and not #1 at Running Back or Defensive Line. Most publications have Penn State at #1 for Quarterback and Stanford #1 at Running Back solely based on one player. We have multiple players at each position that could play anywhere in the country, start, and have All-American type seasons, yet it shows they are pretty near sided and are willing to rate one guy higher than three guys just as capable. Pisses me off some, but I understand Alabama fatigue hits everyone but us, so they spread it out some.
 
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#4
Because we got one QB who struggles to read defense once the ball is snapped and one who reall has no experience...

If we get 250 yards passing a game we go undefeated .

At least IMO .
 

TerryP

I do my own stunts but never intentionally.
ADMINISTRATION
#6
@BamaFan334, Why the rankings the way they are? They make sense to me even seeing your point.

RE: the thread about things getting crammed down our throats...

I suspect we're going to see a lot more of these types of rankings from people we know, a lot we don't know, and we'll question them as well. I ran across rankings on Twitter in the last few days that drew my attention. Here's one tweet:


It's not his rankings that catch my eye. I don't agree with him, but it's his opinion, right? Now, his reasoning? I've got an issue there.

 

TUSKtimes

Riding The Wave
#7
It's not his rankings that catch my eye. I don't agree with him, but it's his opinion, right? Now, his reasoning? I've got an issue there.

Definitely a problem child. When folks start breaking down a decision that perhaps others might have as well, at least it's debatable on some levels. To hear that our advantage over the Barner's defense is at DB is insane. At that point, he's either bad at his job and just doesn't care. Probably a little of both.
 

BamaFan334

Verified Member
#8
@BamaFan334, Why the rankings the way they are? They make sense to me even seeing your point.

RE: the thread about things getting crammed down our throats...

I suspect we're going to see a lot more of these types of rankings from people we know, a lot we don't know, and we'll question them as well. I ran across rankings on Twitter in the last few days that drew my attention. Here's one tweet:


It's not his rankings that catch my eye. I don't agree with him, but it's his opinion, right? Now, his reasoning? I've got an issue there.

Ha, yeah. That guy must need to pull down some formulas or something on his spreadsheet.

I guess I just expect more from these "experts". Sure, the casual football fan may know a guy or two on each team, where a bigger fan knows 90% of the starters and the type offenses and defenses they run. But I expect an expert to know the two deep and overall talent a team possesses. I know they aren't calculating "what ifs", but they technically are. Hurts and Tua are a Top 5 group, and though we have little on Tua we do have enough to say "wow", while Jalen is a proven winner. Where does he have Georgia ranked out of curiosity? They just have a similar situation, so maybe that'll put me in my place for now.
 

BamaFan334

Verified Member
#10
@BamaFan334, I believe he had UGA's QB's at #6. The same type of article is up on the Dawgs247.com site.
See, exactly my point. Our quarterbacks are better than Fromm and Justin Fields hasn't even stepped on the field yet. My daughter cheered for Harrison's Youth program before we moved, so I am definitely a fan of the kid since I used to watch him play, but his toughness is a question to me as I don't think he will hold up as a dual threat that made him a big time recruit. The division he played in at Harrison was not the most difficult one to navigate, but he did play well against Rome. Anyways, I just can't see how they are ranked ahead of our guys and how our guys are not even Top 10! Stats are very similar, and that's not even including rushing yards.


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#11
Tommy Stevens laughs at Alabama saying it has 'best QB room'

"Best QB room in the country," the official Alabama football Twitter account wrote in a post, which contained highlights of Crimson Tide quarterbacks Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, on Monday. At least one person doesn't agree with that assessment. Penn State signal-caller Tommy Stevens retweeted the video from his own Twitter account, and the quarterback accompanied the video with one word — "Lol."

Although the play of Hurts, and later Tagivailoa helped Alabama capture a second College Football Playoff trophy last season, it's safe to assume that Stevens thinks the "Best QB room in the country" resides in Happy Valley. Stevens, a redshirt junior, will backup senior quarterback Trace McSorley for the third consecutive season, while it's still undecided, at least publicly, who will start between Hurts and Tagovailoa.

At one point this offseason, there was uncertainty about whether Stevens would even return to Penn State for the 2018 campaign. The dual-threat passer was considering a move from the Nittany Lions as a graduate transfer. Ultimately, Stevens made the decision to come back in late March after weighing his options at other schools. He could have potentially had two seasons to start at another school, and he would have been immediately eligible.

"I did search around and look to see if there was a better place for me somewhere, and I talked to some schools," Stevens said at the time. "Ultimately, I know what I have here. I love Penn State. I love the relationships that I have here. And I love playing football with my best friends.

"I found out this is still the best place for me, and this is what I want to do moving forward."

Jalen Hurts was also involved in transfer speculation after he was replaced by Tagovailoa in the second half of the Crimson Tide's comeback title victory over Georgia. Hurts' father even went as far as to say his son could potentially be the "biggest free agent in college football history." But Hurts has also decided to stay put, for now, as the quarterback battle rages on into fall camp.

“I think that both players, aight, need to know that they need to win the team, that’s what they need to do,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said in early June at the 12th annual Nick’s Kids charity golf tournament at Old Overton Country Club. “And the best way for them to do that is stay focused on what they need to do, and I think anything that they do that brings attention to themselves probably erodes the opportunity for that to happen."

Stevens and McSorley have been able to coexist for the past three seasons, although McSorley has always had the defined role as a starter. Stevens has been used under center in wildcat formations and at wide receiver and running back. Something similar could happen at Alabama if Hurts and Tagovailoa remain with the Crimson Tide for the entire season. Creating packages for Hurts could keep him engaged even if he doesn't regain his starting role.

As always, Alabama will begin the season as a favorite in the SEC West. Penn State is also a contender in the competitive Big Ten East division. All four quarterbacks should get plenty of opportunities to prove who really has the best QB room in the country.

Penn State football: Tommy Stevens laughs at Alabama saying it has 'best QB room'
 

BamaBoyJosh

Verified Member
#13
@BamaFan334, Why the rankings the way they are? They make sense to me even seeing your point.

RE: the thread about things getting crammed down our throats...

I suspect we're going to see a lot more of these types of rankings from people we know, a lot we don't know, and we'll question them as well. I ran across rankings on Twitter in the last few days that drew my attention. Here's one tweet:


It's not his rankings that catch my eye. I don't agree with him, but it's his opinion, right? Now, his reasoning? I've got an issue there.

I just laugh when I see guys like this pretend like they have a clue about any team in the Sun Belt, let alone all the other Group of 5 conferences.
 

BamaBoyJosh

Verified Member
#19
@BamaBoyJosh, it's better than a DR foe one, Like for two.
Do what? lol
RT for one answer, Like for the other.
:rolf: Yeah, it's just annoying when I see some of these national writers writing about this shit knowing damn well they haven't seen a second of practice or even spoken to the coaches let alone players. They just go read Athlon Sports or Phil Steele and just regurgitate that. I can't remember who it was but last week one of them was doing a Troy "preview" and mentioned like four players that either graduated last year or were leaving. One of the Troy players quoted it with the laughing emoji and then I commented on it and he just deleted it all together lol
 

12gage

Verified Member
#20
Yeah, it's just annoying when I see some of these national writers writing about this shit knowing damn well they haven't seen a second of practice or even spoken to the coaches let alone players.
That's one of the reasons I read Saturday Down South very skeptically. It has been mentioned here that one of the guys who has written about Saban and some of this comments in press conferences has never been at a Saban press conference. As you would suspect, it is also a fan boi piece each time he's written something about Bama. (UT fan)