Even though it happens year in and year out with no reprieve for anybody else in the SEC West, it’s still incredible to witness the abundance of talent pouring into Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The Crimson Tide lost nine players to the top 100 picks of the NFL Draft, and it seems they were able to easily reload. On Saturday, those new hotshot prospects get to go toe-to-toe against Texas A&M in a conference game. The Alabama football prospect preview could be a piece of its own, but we’re gonna go through all the names to watch in this matchup.
Texas A&M and Alabama football prospect preview
Receiving Corps Against Secondaries: Jaylon Waddle and DeVonta Smith vs. Myles Jones and Leon O’Neal Jr.
Jaylon Waddle and DeVonta Smith are the premier receiving duo in college football after coming off a season where Alabama boasted the greatest conglomeration of receiving talent ever gathered. Waddle and Smith are both projected to go high in April, and there is a chance that Waddle could be the first receiver drafted given his unbelievable blend of explosion and grace on his feet.
Seeing him in a more expanded role in 2020 will provide clarity on just how good of a traditional receiver he can be. Smith is as solid as they come. He has a nuanced game and the best hands of any of the four big receivers from the team in 2019.
This will be a huge day for Myles Jones, who is built in the mold of the lanky Cover-3 cornerback with his 6-foot-4 frame. But in reality, being that tall at a position that requires such reactionary movement skills, it’s difficult to find players that tall succeeding at the NFL level. There is no better test for him in 2020 than against the lightning feet of Waddle and the overall game of Smith.
One thing that could help boost his stock is if he wins a few catch point contests with Smith downfield. It will be interesting to see if his lanky frame can remain on the hip of Smith along the sideline and if he can elevate with Smith.
Leon O’Neal Jr. is more of a box safety with his stacked together frame and run defending prowess, but the Aggies ask him to be pretty multiple in coverage, and there won’t be many stops in the NFL at this point where he won’t be asked to play a similar role. It’ll be fun to watch the battle between he and Alabama running back Najee Harris when they meet in the hole. But what I’m more interested in is how he fares playing as the apex and deep safety roles in coverage against the likes of Smith and Waddle.
The Quarterback Preview: Kellen Mond and Mac Jones
Kellen Mond is a beautiful disaster of a quarterback prospect. He has more than the requisite amount of arm talent to be a passing weapon at the NFL level, and the flashes of brilliance are as big and bright as the stars and stripes deep in the heart of Texas. But far too often, his post-snap process is questionable at best and flat out horrible at its worst, and his accuracy fluctuates far too much to feel excited about his starting prospects at the next level.
Hopefully, he’s figured out how to speed up his process and get rid of the ball quickly, because he already takes a lot of punishment in the pocket, and this Alabama defensive line, like always, is scary good.
Mac Jones is an intriguing one. Last season he completed nearly 70% of his passes and 14 touchdowns to three interceptions in his 11 games. We haven’t seen a whole lot from him yet, but he seems to be mechanically sound, which helps him with his consistency in the short and intermediate areas of the field.
The biggest question for Jones going forward will be whether he can pick up this team and carry them on his shoulders if they ever find themselves in a situation where they need to erase a deficit through the air. With this receiving corps, you hope he is up to that task.
The Running Back Preview: Najee Harris
Harris is that same create-a-player running back that they always seem to recruit, but with a twist. There’s absolutely zero doubt that this young man is more man than he is young, with a punishing running style that slides or bounces tacklers away, yet still possessing enough wiggle to make defenders miss in space.
But what makes Harris different is his ability as a receiver, which is something that Alabama hadn’t really introduced to its runners until the past two seasons. His catch on a back-shoulder wheel route elevating against Patrick Queen was one of the highlights of the 2019 season for me.
More Alabama talent to watch
This guy! There is no prospect in this class that I am more excited to watch play. Dylan Moses is a physical freak of nature. This young man sits around 240 pounds and could easily drop back and play strong safety, given his unique athletic ability. Moses is a twitched up, explosive mover who possesses great instincts for the position and only has an injury red flag on his resume. He’s as blue-chip as blue-chip talent comes. And there’s a good chance he’s the most talented of all Alabama linebackers before him.
Speaking of long lines of talent, the Alabama defensive line plugs in another freaky interior defender in Christian Barmore with the departure of what seems to be an entire defensive line to the NFL. If the young interior defender is able to get the mental side of the game to go along with his already mature physical frame and athleticism, there is a good chance he’ll end up as another first-round defensively lineman coming from Tuscaloosa.
One of my favorite prospects in this class, Deonte Brown is the type of bully I enjoy watching on the interior offensive line. This young man is built from stone, but he doesn’t move in quicksand, either. He possesses a compact and powerful strike in the run and pass game, and his ability to drive defenders in the run game is admirable.