Alabama football's WR, CB and OL have work to do. Here's what Nick Saban wants to see

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama football escaped Austin, Texas, with a win, but as coach Nick Saban said Monday, there’s plenty to learn.

Plus, there's plenty on which to improve.

Here’s a look at three Crimson Tide positions filled with competition in the preseason and the early parts of the season and what Saban wants to see from them moving forward.

Alabama (2-0) hosts Louisiana Monroe (1-1) on Saturday (3 p.m., SEC Network).


Alabama’s receivers accounted for only 13 of 27 passes Bryce Young threw against Texas in a 20-19 win.

Running back Jahmyr Gibbs was the primary target with nine receptions. He told reporters Monday he couldn’t recall a time he caught that many passes in a game.

Part of that shows what a versatile weapon Gibbs can be, but part of it also is representative of how the receivers didn’t make much of an impact until late. The Crimson Tide receivers often struggled to get open.

“We didn’t play fast and do as good a job,” Saban said. “But I do think in the fourth quarter we kind of came of age a little bit. Played faster, made plays, spread them out a little bit more. Did a little better job giving them a chance, and they took advantage of it. I saw some maturation in the fourth quarter in those guys playing with confidence and making plays.”

Ten of the 13 catches in the hands of receivers came in the fourth quarter. That’s something on which the receivers can build.

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The competition continues at this spot.

Khyree Jackson and Kool-Aid McKinstry started the game, then Terrion Arnold replaced Jackson. Eli Ricks did not receive a defensive snap.

“Guys need to go out there each and every day and play well in practice,” Saban said. “I get a little bit frustrated sometimes when guys don’t do things the way they need to do them in practice and they’re not creating the right habits because especially in the secondary, there is nobody behind you. If the linebacker misses the tackle, the safety makes the tackle. If the safety misses the tackle, nobody is there. If the corner misses the tackle, there’s nobody left.”

Saban said Alabama gave up way too many big plays against Texas, something that will need to be cleaned up.

Arnold had the best game of the corners. He was targeted three times and only gave up one reception, per Pro Football Focus’ charting. That was a one-yard reception.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence in Terrion,” Saban said, when asked about the sophomore.

McKinstry and Jackson struggled. In only 14 pass-play snaps, Jackson gave up two receptions on two targets. He gave up a 46-yard reception and 68 total yards. He also was penalized once.

McKinstry, meanwhile, picked up two penalties in 45 pass-play snaps, both pass interferences. He was targeted eight times and gave up six receptions.

Offensive line

Saban made clear he wants to see a more physical offensive line.

Better movement, diversity in the running game and executing more consistently are among the elements he listed.

“I don’t think we controlled the line of scrimmage as well as we need to in this game,” Saban said.

It was the second game for a group that continues to have parts moved around. The offensive line to start the Texas game was (left to right) Tyler Steen, Kendall Randolph, Darrian Dalcourt, Emil Ekiyor Jr. and JC Latham. Then Javion Cohen rotated in some at left guard. Ekiyor and Dalcourt were the only returning starters for this group.

“I have total confidence and ability in every guy that plays up there,” Saban said. “I just think we need to get a little bit more consistent and a little bit more physical in how we play so that we can control the line of scrimmage better.”