Coach Nick Saban seeks more offensive support for Crimson Tide

Coach Nick Saban seeks more offensive support for Crimson Tide

October 12th, 2017 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Alabama's Calvin Ridley had five catches for 68 yards last Saturday night at Texas A&M, but coach Nick Saban was not happy with how Crimson Tide receivers performed after Ridley left the game with a thigh bruise.

Photo by Kent Gidley

Alabama has an unquestioned go-to offensive nucleus of quarterback Jalen Hurts, running backs Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough and receiver Calvin Ridley under first-year coordinator Brian Daboll.

It's the supporting cast coach Nick Saban would like to see enhanced, beginning with Saturday night's game against visiting Arkansas (2-3, 0-2 Southeastern Conference).

"I think Brian is doing a good job utilizing the players that we have," Saban said Wednesday night in a news conference. "Hopefully, we can even do a better job, because there are a few guys we would have liked to have seen play a little more in the last game. We need to get Josh Jacobs a little more involved in the game, and Najee Harris is a good player who we would like to get more involved.

"I think the young receivers — Jerry Jeudy, (Henry) Ruggs and (DeVonta) Smith — are making nice progress, and I think we need to play those guys more. I think that, in the long run, those guys getting better is going to make us better."

In last Saturday night's 27-19 win at Texas A&M, the closest call for the top-ranked Crimson Tide (6-0, 3-0) so far this season, Scarbrough had 15 carries, while Harris and Hurts each had 14 rushes. No other Alabama player had any.

Ridley led the receivers with five catches for 68 yards, while Scarbrough added three for 21 out of the backfield, but Jeudy, Ruggs, Robert Foster and tight end Irv Smith had a combined five catches for 34 yards.

"Damien Harris has probably been our most consistent guy," Saban said. "He and Calvin Ridley have both been very productive and have done a great job all year long, but we need more guys to be able to step up to be playmakers when we need them. When Calvin went out of the game, there was a little bit of an absence of guys who could step up and make plays.

"That actually hurt us because of dropped balls and lining up in illegal formations and fumbling the ball in a critical situations in the game. Those players are capable, and we have confidence in them."

Last Saturday was a far cry from the previous two weeks, when the Tide routed Vanderbilt and Ole Miss by a combined score of 125-3. Alabama was able to empty the benches early in those two routs, and Saban expressed concern Wednesday night about those who don't get to contribute every single Saturday.

"I feel sorry sometimes for some of our players who have a lot of pressure on them and a lot of anxiety created because they fear for their future," he said. "They're not playing well enough. They're not catching enough passes. They're not doing enough to show somebody that they could play at the next level.

"They put so much pressure on themselves that it really affects their performance. We want everyone to have high-achievement motivation, but we also want low anxiety."

On the fly?

Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen left last week's 48-22 loss at South Carolina with a shoulder injury and has been resting it this week in practice. Allen told reporters he expects to play, but just in case, Saban is preparing as if backup Cole Kelley will start.

The gargantuan 6-foot-7, 268-pound Kelley adds a lot more quarterback runs to the offense, Saban said, so much that it could change the look of the Razorbacks should he play.

"We may have to adjust during the game," Saban said.

Tide tidbits

Offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy could be out for the rest of the season after undergoing ankle surgery as a result of an injury during Tuesday's practice. The 6-foot-3, 305-pound redshirt sophomore has played in three games as the backup to center Bradley Bozeman and played in seven games last year as a reserve guard. ... Senior defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (MCL strain) will miss this week's game and will be "week to week from there," Saban said.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.


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