The 2013 season was a disappointment for the Alabama Crimson Tide. While it may be hard to fathom that an 11-2 season could be disappointing, that’s the nature of the beast in Tuscaloosa. Closing the season with a bowl loss to the Oklahoma Sooners and watching the hated Auburn Tigers play in the national championship only rubbed salt in the wound.
The Crimson Tide should, without a doubt, be in contention for the SEC West crown in 2014. However, they replace many stars at key positions, not the least of which is three-year starter, Heisman-finalist, and two-time national championship-winning quarterback A.J. McCarron. Add to that list Cyrus Kouandjio, C.J. Mosley and Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, and the Tide find themselves with many holes to fill.
Alabama is loaded with talent and will most likely find players to fill the holes left on offense and defense by these tremendous players who are bound for NFL rosters. However, it’s not their replacements who need to bear the burden of pressure. One player in particular can help ease the burden of these players leaving, and his name is T.J. Yeldon.
With a new left tackle, new quarterback and some replacements getting their feet wet on defense, Yeldon can be the bell-cow that keeps the Crimson Tide in the hunt. He has the ability to take over games and experience to be a leader on the field. If he has the monster season he is capable of, the Tide won’t feel the vacuum left by such big-name talents.
There will be a new starter at quarterback this fall for Alabama. By all accounts, most believe it will be Florida State transfer Jacob Coker. When August rolls around, Coker will only have been on campus three months, so someone will need to step up and take the pressure off.
Add to that a young starter at left tackle, and all of a sudden you’re asking a lot for the offense to come out of the gate throwing all over the field, even with a tremendous wide receiver like Amari Cooper. A power running game can cure any ills that come with two new starters at the two most important offensive positions.
Yeldon will be called upon to be the focal point of the offense while Coker (or Blake Sims) and projected LT Cam Robinson allow experience to catch up to their considerable talent. With this most likely Yeldon’s last year in Tuscaloosa, you can bet he will be motivated and ready to be the guy.
While there are question marks for Alabama rolling into the fall, having Yeldon and the talented stable of backs behind him leave the Tide in good shape. Should Yeldon be a dominating force out of the gate and the rest of the offense improve as they get experience, Auburn may have a hard time repeating as SEC West champs.