It’s hard to measure the progress of a rebuilding team when you play against the powerhouse that is the Alabama Crimson Tide.
I think all things considered, you can’t really be upset with the outcome of the game on Saturday. No one expected a win, but everyone just wanted to see a glimpse of progress, a glimpse of what this Missouri program could look like this year and beyond.
I think we got just that.
I thought there were several positive things to takeaway from the loss against Alabama. First things first, and I think probably the most important for this seasons success... I think this defense is for real.
Yes, I know they gave up 38 points, but this will probably be the most lopsided that the talent difference will be for the Tigers all season. They were overmatched on the outside (bad), but after the unfortunate injury to Jarvis Ware, most of those snaps went to a redshirt freshman in Ishamel Burdine. So by the end of the evening, you had two Freshman in Rakestraw and Burdine covering what is the best receiver duo in the country... In their first real game action at the collegiate level. Not ideal.
Aside from the issues at corner, the other two levels of the defense looked pretty good. Bolton and Nicholson seem to be in sync, and the defensive line did flash a few times. If they can get a little more consistency out of the young corners as the season goes along, and create more pass rush, there’s no reason they can’t be a top five level SEC defense.
In addition to their defense, they managed to find some success with running the ball along the interior of the offensive line. Larry Rountree averaged almost five yards a carry, and it’s unfortunate the game script prevented him from running more, but I bet Drink is filing that away for this week.
Obviously, there were some bad points. The play of both the offensive and defensive lines fall in this category.
The offensive line was at times pushed around. The struggled with the speed Alabama had on their defense and in particular their defensive line. Robinson was under attack most of the first half. Robinson himself probably deserves some of that blame, but also there were times where they were outclassed. In particular, the left side of the line struggled the most. According to PFF College, the left side (Powell & Delgado) had a 60.9 and a 39.8 pass blocking grade respectively. They had their hands full, but they’ll need to be better if we expect Shawn Robinson to last the entire season.
As I said above, the defensive line flashed. A flash is nice, but with the exception of a few plays in the second half, the defensive line was bullied a bit. No interior push, no real pass rush from the ends, and some nasty missed tackles. The opponent is factored into the equation, but I was disappointed to see how little pressure the Tigers were getting with just four rushers. This lack of pressure hurt badly, and forced them to have to blitz to generate pressure. When they did, it generally didn’t work well. Man blitzes usually aren’t going to work against this Alabama team.
There was a good amount of bad, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Trajan Jeffcoat looks like a legitimate player. He generated a lot of pressure in the second half, and he played damn well for a player who was just added back to the roster last week. Here’s to hoping that he continues on this trajectory.
It was his first game, so we’ll cut him some slack, but to see Coach Drinkwitz continue to try and run on the edges was disappointing. It was very evident that they didn’t have the speed to try and outrun the Alabama defense, but the first half he seemed really committed to trying to get to the edge. In particular, the speed option look that the Tigers showed multiple times, didn’t really take them anywhere. It resulted in two tackles for loss, a lost fumble, and turnover on downs. Not great.
It’s not the end of the world, and he very well may have been just trying things out and it should be noted that he put the option in his back pocket the second half, but I would’ve liked to see that less personally.