Chat with Alex Scarborough
Welcome to TideNation! On Thursday, reporter Alex Scarborough stops by to chat about the state of Alabama football.
Scarborough joined ESPN.com in 2012 after covering University of Alabama athletics and high school football for The Tuscaloosa News. He currently resides in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Send your questions now and join Scarborough Thursday at noon ET!
Alex Scarborough (12:00 PM)
Welcome to another hour-long chat about all things Alabama football, something I do here at the same time and place every week. And as with every other chat to this point, questions are answered in the order they're received. Please remember that if you don't have your question read, you can head to TideNationESPN.com where we have all your up-to-date Alabama coverage. Go to the forum there, post a thread with your question and I can answer it any time. Now that we've dispensed with the housecleaning portion of this segment, it's time to dive into the fun stuff. Fire away.
Jalston Fowler is a beast as a running back but could he better reach his potential as a fullback/halfback? Could he be NFL draft worthy at this position?
Alex Scarborough (12:03 PM)
Given Alabama's depth at tailback, I do believe his best shot at showcasing his talents is in a hybrid RB/H-back type of role. He's got to learn the art of being a lead blocker -- yes, it's an art that not many have skill in -- but he's got the size, speed and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. I'm very interested to see how Doug Nussmeier and the offensive coaching staff use him this coming season. He very well could be the goal-line back who gets Alabama that extra yard when it needs it.
have you heard any reports on who may be leading the race for starting safety spot and corner back spot
Alex Scarborough (12:05 PM)
It's a dogfight right now. At safety I believe it's down to Vinnie Sunseri and Landon Collins, and I see Sunseri as being the leader right now. He's not as talented as Collins, but he knows the system inside and out and Saban trusts him. At corner, it's Geno Smith's to lose. With John Fulton out this spring, it's up to Smith to grab that spot by the horns. He's the best equipped to start alongside Deion Belue, in my estimation. And of the three offensive players trying their hand out at CB -- RB Dee Hart and WRs Chrisiton and Cyrus Jones -- look for Cyrus to be the one to stick. He could be a nickel or dime corner by the time fall rolls around.
has derrick henry been raising eye brows at running back and has he maybe change your opinion a little bit that he can be an effective sec runner.
Alex Scarborough (12:08 PM)
In terms of his physical gifts, he has been as advertised. He's an enormous back with better than expected quickness. Now am I ready to say he's going to be the No. 2 RB or even end his career at that position? No, I'm not there yet. I want to see how he fares against an SEC defense when technical things like pad level and an ability to read the running the lanes come into play. That's what separates the good backs from the great, and until I see Henry do those things, he's one very tantalizing question mark in my book. I know that sounds sour, but if there's a player people need to exhibit some patience with, it's him. Don't make the expectations so large that he can't meet them. Remember he's only been on campus a few months. Most his age are finishing up high school right now.
is their any freshman that not on campus yet that you can see getting playing time this upcoming season
Alex Scarborough (12:10 PM)
There are a few actually, all on the defensive side of the ball. With the pass rush being an area of concern, look to Jonathan Allen as a guy who might be able to come in and make an impression early. He's got better size than Tim Williams, who is still rather lanky at this point. And at corner, keep an eye on Maurice Smith and Eddie Jackson. Smith is a polished guy coming out of a big program in Texas and Jackson is a very skilled, if underdeveloped, option at corner.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who do you think is the Best Crimson Tide that is Playing in the NFL Right Now?
Alex Scarborough (12:11 PM)
Tough question. On offense, it's down to Trent Richardson and Julio Jones. I give the nod to Julio after last season. He's developing into a monster at WR. And on defense, I like how Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and Mark Barron are progressing.
Toby L (TX)
All this talk about Bama "needing" more sacks this offseason but their style of play isn't really geared toward accumulating large sack totals is it? Seems like Saban's more concerned with stopping the run and containing the QB. Bama hasn't had large sack numbers during the Saban era and it hasn't hurt the defense to this point and with more mobile QB's than ever, gambling on sacks just leaves you that more vulnerable to long scrambles.
Alex Scarborough (12:14 PM)
You're partly right. Saban doesn't sacrifice run defense for sacks. He's not a numbers guy in that respect. But that doesn't mean he isn't wanting to pressure the quarterback. He wants the pocket to close in around the passer. It is proven out time and time again that if you do that, negative plays will happen. If not a sack, then an interception. If not an interception, then an incompletion. Saban said he wasn't pleased with the "consistency" of the pass rush last season. That meant when Alabama wasn't sending an extra guy on the blitz, he wanted more defenders in the face of the quarterback, pressuring the play.
Morris is clearly the best QB after AJ but who is Morris' backup next season in your opinion? I believe it could be DelRio
Alex Scarborough (12:16 PM)
It could, but I think we'll see a battle in terms of who develops the most at the quarterback position over the next year between Cooper Bateman, Parker McLeod and Luke Del Rio. Del Rio, the son of an NFL coach, is the most polished of the three at this point and seems most ready to play in a controlled offense. But Bateman does show those glimpses of why he was so highly rated. He's got very good quickness and his arm is solid. He's got a ways to go in terms of understanding how to maximize and harness his talents, but I have to believe that he'll be right up there next year vying for the backup QB position, if not the starter's job. As we saw with Morris, a lot can change in a year's time.
If Derrick Henry continues to struggle catching passes and picking up blocking schemes his role will be very limited and the door will be wide open for the RBs' arriving this summer...........Jones and Kamara are phenomenal receivers. How heated to you see the RB competition becoming this fall?
Alex Scarborough (12:20 PM)
Very heated, as a matter of fact. It is a friendly competition, though, for you conspiracy theorist out there. Alabama wants to use 3, 4 or 5 backs at a time, so it's a "more the merrier" situation. But obviously there's a want to be higher up the depth chart. I know you like Tyren Jones a lot, Len, and I think he's got great potential. In terms of being a polished back, he looks downright solid. Personally, I believe Altee Tenpenny could be the steal of the class. He's a young Trent Richardson in terms of build, running style and upside. The guy, though, who is best equipped to make a role for himself right away is Alvin Kamara. He's not like the other back, with the exception of the still recovering Dee Hart, in that he's a more outside-the-tackles ball carrier who could be a factor on third down and in passing situations. However it shakes out -- and please, don't forget how good Kenyan Drake was last year -- it's going to be a fun area to watch with Coach Burns leading the charge.
is steve the only one you will answer to?
Alex Scarborough (12:21 PM)
I just answered two in a row, Len. See, it really is first come first served. Well, except for the guy who asked an overly personal question a few minutes ago. There is a line we shouldn't cross here, ladies and gentlemen.
Patrick (Wichita, KS)
I know Vinnie isn't gonna just let Landon have one of those safety spots ... but Landon Collins IMO, is just too talented to not have starting in our secondary. Thoughts on how the safety situation plays itself out?
Alex Scarborough (12:24 PM)
It's not always a matter of talent when you're talking about a Saban-run defense. He has to trust you before you can play. And that's not to say Landon can't be trusted. There's no reason to believe he can't be, it's just a matter of Vinnie being in the system longer and knowing what Saban likes. And consider this: with such a vacuum in terms of leadership, don't you think the coaches would like a guy like Sunseri in the secondary? He's a guy that isn't afraid to speak his mind. ... Landon is certainly the better talent, but that's not the entire equation. That said, we'll know a lot more come A-Day and Landon has had the opportunity to play in a few scrimmages and show whether he is game ready.
what do you think will happen at the end of the season? Is this new alabama team better or worse than the past 2 that won the national championship?
Alex Scarborough (12:28 PM)
That's a loaded question if I've ever seen one. And I'll try my best to answer it in parts. ... In terms of talent, I'd put this team up against any I've seen in recent years. The amount of skill players (QB, RB, WR, LB) is off the charts. Alabama's offense is poised to become very explosive and with a veteran QB at the helm, the possibilities are endless. That said, let's not pretend there aren't significant question marks facing this group, first and foremost the line of scrimmage. If you can't win that, you just can't win. The offensive line is replacing three of five starters, including its center. The defensive line is replacing two of three starters and its top reserve. And outside of that, the secondary and pass rush need some help. ... As with all things, the outcome of the season will depend on the attitude of the players and coaches. Are they able to fight of complacency? Will they maximize their talent and play as a team instead of a group of individuals? The pieces are there, but when you're talking about the difference between good and great, the margin is razor thin.
Cam Newton (Carolinas)
Should I be worried about my nat'l championship?
Alex Scarborough (12:32 PM)
And there's the inevitable Auburn question. Tell him what he wins ... Nothing. I don't see anything changing. The NCAA has investigated Auburn once and came up with nothing. As Joe Schad just pointed out on Twitter, the NCAA said it needed more "credible and persuasive evidence." In reading yesterday's report, I just don't see it. Players are backing away from their statements and the one that isn't is facing a trial that could send him to jail. Now, that said, the reporting that follows this report could make the difference. But until the NCAA is presented hard evidence in the form of documentation and credible witness statements, don't expect the hammer to come down on the Plains.
what do you think will happen with our season? Do you think this new team is better or worse then the other 2 teams that won the national championship?
Alex Scarborough (12:33 PM)
I think I addressed that a few questions ago, but I'll take this opportunity to add something to that. ... When I looked at last year's team I had many of the same questions: leadership, continuity, complacency. Players passed those tests with flying colors. Can that happen again? Who knows. One thing is certain, we will know very early (Va Tech and TAMU to open the season) right away whether this team has the championship mettle.
Have you seen Adam Griffith kicking any this spring?
Alex Scarborough (12:35 PM)
I've seen some, but I'll be honest with you -- it's so hard to judge kickers in practice. Sure Griffith looks like he can boom the football and he's appeared very accurate. But until we see him in a game circumstance, what do we really know? He has the leg, but can he get the ball through the uprights when 100,000 people are depending on it? That said, I believe Saban's comments on the first day of spring practice were telling. Instead of saying the job was Foster's, he said it was a competition that Griffith will be a part of. In other words, he left the door open.
How much of a lost is Barret Jones (c) and the offensive line leaving?
Alex Scarborough (12:38 PM)
Huge. Again, when we're talking about Alabama, a lot of the time we're talking about the difference between good and great because everything is viewed in the prism of "can it be the difference between a championship or not?" I believe Jones' leadership and intangibles can be. Now, can Ryan Kelly be a capable center? Absolutely. He might end up being more productive at the position. And can the LG and RT positions be filled by able-bodied players? Of course. But can all five guys play at the same level and with the same chemistry as a season ago? That's a difficult job, bordering on the impossible. Again, talent isn't he question. It's how that talent comes together.
Kamara reminds me a lot of Drake in their running style actually, they are both one cut guys who get up field in a hurry. Drake could easily be the biggest threat to break big plays from the backfield this season from what i've heard and seen. I believe it's TJ 1A and Drake 1B with the other guys playing based on situation.....thoughts?
Alex Scarborough (12:41 PM)
Agreed. Drake is a guy with loads of potential. And as I stated earlier, Alabama wants to go with 4 or 5 backs. It wasn't able to do that because of injury a season ago, but this year coaches could. Henry will get his chances and so will the others but look for Yeldon and Drake to be the two with the ball in their hand most often.
Cam Newtown (Carolinas)
Thank you sir for answering my question. If this chat is admissible in court or by the NCAA, I just want to say I never took any $$$$.
Alex Scarborough (12:42 PM)
Let it be added to the record.
Do you think Jonny Manziel or whatever and TA&MU is a threat to The Alabama Crimson Tide football program?
Alex Scarborough (12:48 PM)
Absolutely they are. The Aggies were the only team to beat Alabama last season, and they did it in Tuscaloosa which is saying a lot. Now, the ball definitely bounced TAMU's way -- literally. I don't see the Aggies being that much better this season, and I think they could take a step back. Losing their LT and best defensive player will hurt. I'm concerned with what I've seen from Manziel this offseason and I think it sets up as a classic case of a letdown season. That said, the game will be in College Station and that's a tough environment to play in, especially so early in the season. If there's a top threat to Alabama repeating as champs, the Aggies are it.
Roll Tider (Athens, AL)
Everyone seems to be singing the praises of Tomlinson. What is your evaluation of him going into this year?
Alex Scarborough (12:51 PM)
Well I'm not ready to name him an All-American or anything, but the potential is definitely there. He's got great burst and has put on a lot more muscle since the day he enrolled. As a two-time state wrestling champ, it's safe to say he knows how to use his body. I like what I've seen from him so far, now let's see how he does in live action.
I watched Derrick Henry on TV a couple times last year and I don't think he makes it in the SEC as a RB. On a scale of 1-10, how crazy is my statement (that he won't be a RB)?
Alex Scarborough (12:56 PM)
Not crazy at all. In fact, our scouting experts think he'll wind up elsewhere too. That said, let's take a step back and remember there's a reason he holds the national record for career rushing yards in high school. There's no denying that. And if Alabama coaches didn't think he would play RB he wouldn't be there right now. To counter that, though, Alabama does like to give freshmen a chance to play where they prefer their first season. If they prove themselves at their position of their choice, then great. If they're better used elsewhere at that point, they move. We'll see what happens with Henry.
Roll Tider (Athens, AL)
Chris Black or = to Cooper, from what you see at practice?
Alex Scarborough (12:58 PM)
Not ready to say he's better or equal to Cooper. He'll have to prove that in games. Cooper's season in 2012 was nothing short of magical. You don't just set school records like he did, not when there was a man by the name of Julio Jones who came before him. Now back to Black, he can be very special. I've been high on him since his first practice a year ago. He fast, lightening quick and has very good hands. He could rival Cooper before it's all said and done. He's a potential playmaker. But remember the word "potential." Until he does it he doesn't need to be mentioned alongside those who have.
Alex Scarborough (12:59 PM)
Well folks, that's all the time we've got today. Many thanks for stopping by and participating. As I said earlier, stop by TideNationESPN.com between now and next week. I'll be here at the same time and place to do this again. Cheers.