BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The following is a commentary blog from WBRC FOX6 Sports Director Rick Karle:
You knew it was only a matter of time. Yes, it was a slow start, and yes, Nick Saban has many issues with a 37-10 win over Middle Tennessee State. But I'm here to tell you that the Crimson Tide team is an expected 2-0 as it heads into next week's big game with Ole Miss. So then, what's the rub on the game you watched Saturday? I saw more Thumbs up than Thumbs Down!
Thumbs Up: Tailback Derrick Henry
The big guy once again took care of business in running for 96 yards on 18 carries with 3 touchdowns. While some Bama fans want to see #2 get more touches, it certainly wasn't necessary against MTSU. This here my friend, is an NFL linebacker's body running downhill at will. So goes Derrick Henry so goes the Crimson Tide in 2015.
Thumbs Up: Tailback Kenyan Drake
What a difference in style Kenyan Drake brings to the offense. No wonder OC Lane Kiffin is looking to get the ball in Drake's hands as often as he can. This young man was everywhere on Saturday:
Drake chalked up 55 rushing yards, 91 receiving yards and 71 kick return yards. His grand total? 217 offensive yards, which is superb in anyone's book.
Thumbs Down: The Alabama Running Attack
Wait a minute- wasn't I just praising Henry and Drake? Yep, but I have a very good feeling that Nick Saban wants more. After one quarter of play, the Crimson Tide had as many rushing yards as it had points (7). Many of the team's 220 rushing yards came late in the game when the outcome had been decided (Damien Harris had 55 yards, and yes, I like this kid). The totals? 220 rushing yards on 39 carries. While that equates to 5.6 yards per carry, there is no reason why America's second-ranked team can't put up at least 300 rushing yards against a team like MTSU.
Thumbs Up: Quarterback Jake Coker
You talk about consistency: On Saturday, Coker went 15-of-26 for 214 yards and 1 TD. Last weekend against Wisconsin the big guy went 15-of-21 for 213 yards and 1 TD. Those numbers are so similar they are frightening. The bottom line? Coker has been efficient but not spectacular. Just the kind of quarterback that can thrive in Saban's system.
Thumbs Up: Linebacker Play
With all due respect to that mammoth defensive line, the Bama linebackers came to play on Saturday. Reggie Ragland was hobbled but superb, turning in 7 tackles (5 solo, 2 assists). Denzel Devall had 7 tackles (4 solos, 3 assists). The Bama defense held MTSU to 86 rushing yards, an average of 2.8 yards per run. Last weekend Bama held the Badgers to an average 1.9 yards per run. That's pretty stout.
Thumbs Down: Kicking And Punting
I don't want to say that kicker Adam Griffith and punter JK Scott have issues, but there is work to do here. Griffith missed two field goals on Saturday and two last week. He's 0-for-4 this season.
JK "Big Boomer" Scott averaged 36 yards a punt last week, 40 yards a punt on Saturday. A 38 yard-per-punt average is not what the coaching staff wants. Nick Saban can rant at reporters who question these issues as much as he wants (a clear indication that it's gotten under his skin), but the fact remains that these two fine young men must address their problems ASAP.
Now for the good news for the Alabama nation: This team is in great shape as it heads into SEC play. If the Final Four started today, Bama would be one of the top two seeds. The catch? There's a whole lot of football yet to be played. Bama fans should feel very good about this team just two games into the season. I have a feeling Coach Saban feels the same.