Chat with Alex Scarborough
Welcome to TideNation! On Thursday, reporter Alex Scarborough stops by to chat about the state of Alabama football.
Scarborough joined ESPN.com in 2012 after covering University of Alabama athletics and high school football for The Tuscaloosa News. He currently resides in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Send your questions now and join Scarborough Thursday at noon ET!
Bama J (Grand Bay AL)
What is the status of AJ's injuries, bruised back and knee and the rest of the team?
Alex Scarborough (12:05 PM)
Jumping right into things today. Hope you all are well and excited for Alabama-LSU, Part III. ... AJ's back is doing fine and is expected to be good to go on Saturday. He's practiced all week and I haven't noticed much of a hindrance when he's throwing the ball or scrambling in the pocket. His top target at WR Amari Cooper has been slowed by an ankle injury. He was held out of drills in practice on Monday and Tuesday and was limited in his ability to cut yesterday. He may not be 100 percent but Saban said he fully expects he'll play against LSU. Other than those two, Alabama appears to be as healthy as you could expect an SEC team to be at this point in the season.
jonathan (hartselle, alabama)
Do you think that after this weekend if alabama wins there will be more heisman talk for AJ McArron
Alex Scarborough (12:09 PM)
Good question, Jonathan. I actually wrote about that today in the Five Storylines for the game. I think this is AJ's moment to prove to the national media what we here in Alabama already know -- he's one of the best quarterbacks in the country and he's not simply a product of the system. He hasn't thrown a pick all year and is on pace to set a school record for passing touchdowns in a season. With all the attention surrounding the game, he has an opportunity to not only change the minds of those who believe he's still just a "game manager," but also get his name even hotter in the Heisman race.
Matthew (Hayden, AL)
Alex, What is the estimated date of return for Chris Black or is he probably out for the rest of the season? The reason I ask is because he was the number two wide receiver out of the entire recruiting class, only behind Green-Beckham from Missouri, and it would fantastic if the Tide could get him back before the season ended.
Alex Scarborough (12:14 PM)
When he went down during the offseason, we were told it would be 3-4 months. We've seen him around practice and he appears to be doing fine, but I don't expect him to return this season. I don't see the return on the investment if they pull the redshirt off of him. Yes, Alabama is a little thin at receiver after DeAndrew White went down, but the emergence of Amari Cooper and Cyrus Jones has afforded them some leeway. That said, when Black returns, I think fans are in for a treat. For as good as Cooper has looked this season, when I watched both he and Black practice during the spring, I thought Black looked better. He's a real threat in the slot with great body control, good hands and above-average speed.
What do you think will be the key for Alabama and LSU this weekend?
Alex Scarborough (12:16 PM)
I've said it all week and my opinion hasn't changed -- this game will come down to what happens in the trenches. This is a game that's consistently won and lost at the line of scrimmage.
Bama J (Grand Bay AL)
What should be Bama's offensive and defensive plan this week?
Alex Scarborough (12:18 PM)
On offense, it's the same as its always been this season -- take exactly what the defense gives. And I've got to believe LSU is looking to load the box and limit the run game. If that's the case, look for AJ McCarron to take some shots downfield early.On defense, I expect Alabama to do a lot of run blitzing to try and disrupt plays in the backfield. Alabama wants to stop the run and force Mettenberger to pass, something he hasn't done particularly well all season.
Alex- early in the year Cade Foster was kicking EVERYHING into the end zone on kickoffs and now he cat seem to get it past the 5 and its hurt us the last few games. Do you have any idea whats going on? Is he injured... is it startegy... etc???
Alex Scarborough (12:21 PM)
I've got to believe it's an issue of confidence. He lacked confidence last season after missing several kicks and it showed both on kickoffs and on field goals. He came back this season strong and got off to a fast start. The confidence he got from seeing a few kicks go through the uprights translated to the kickoff game as well. But a few weeks ago he missed two makable field goals in Knoxville and he hasn't looked the same since. There's no indication that he's injured and Saban isn't one to go for the pooch kick. He'd rather take the sure thing and give the offense the ball on the 25.
How much of a factor will the noise be for Bama offense? So many freshman that have never played in Death Valley...
Alex Scarborough (12:23 PM)
AJ McCarron nearly laughed off that question last night. He doesn't believe it will be an issue, and frankly I believe him. Yes there are some youngsters on offense, but where noise is often the biggest issue -- on the offensive line -- Alabama has plenty of experience. Guys like Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack have been through it before and know what to expect when Tiger Stadium starts swaying.
Bob (Tuscaloosa )
How's Landon Collins progressing?
Alex Scarborough (12:24 PM)
He's coming along fine and has made some plays on special teams in recent weeks. He's not at a point where he's breaking into the starting rotation on defense yet, but he's definitely improving each week.
Bama Fan (Springfield,Oh)
What do you think will be the best one on one machup for the game?
Alex Scarborough (12:26 PM)
Good question. I'd go with Eddie Lacy versus Kevin Minter. If Minter and the LSU defense can't stop Lacy and the Alabama running game, the Tigers could be in for a long night.
How do you think Belue is doing so far this year?
Alex Scarborough (12:30 PM)
If I were giving him a grade, I'd award him a B+. He's had his moments where he's looked shaky, but overall he's done what anyone could ask of him. He transferred to Alabama in January, picked up the defense immediately and became a starter right away. He hasn't been picked on to a noticeable extent and when you're starting opposite Dee Milliner that's saying something.
Who scares you more, this weekend in Death Valley, or the trap game versus Texas AM?
Alex Scarborough (12:33 PM)
If I were an Alabama fan, I'd be scared of both equally. LSU presents the most obvious challenge in terms of sheer talent, but Texas A&M is capable of upsetting anyone with its offense. And at the end of a three game stretch that has Alabama playing Tennessee, Mississippi State and LSU, the Tide could go into their matchup with the Aggies tired physically or mentally or both which is always dangerous.
Can LSU move the ball against BAMA? BAMA has looked fantastic against the run and I think we have faced tougher battles in the passing game the past two weeks.
Alex Scarborough (12:35 PM)
It depends on how you define moving the ball. But, no, I don't expect LSU to move the ball well against Alabama. The Tigers are simply too one-dimensional on offense. That said, what they do they do well. Alabama hasn't faced as physical an offense as they'll see on Saturday night. If LSU can get going downhill in the running game, watch out.
What is your fondest LSU / BAMA memory? My would be last years thumping in the NC game.
Alex Scarborough (12:38 PM)
Nearly every game, with the exception of the national championship game, conjures fond memories for me. I say that because I'm not a fan of either school, I'm a fan of good, competitive, physical football and almost every time Alabama and LSU meet you get that. The NC game was the exception to that.
How dangerous of a team would Bama be if Forrest Gump was returning kicks for them this year? that boy has some serious straight-line speed.
Alex Scarborough (12:40 PM)
No doubt. I wouldn't want to face a Gump-led Alabama team. That joker could fly.
mtmcelvy (Destin, FL)
Do you know anyone with an extra ticket??!! My LSU buddy is going over to the game and is giving me a bit of grief for not taking the ride with him!
Alex Scarborough (12:40 PM)
I don't, but maybe someone here could help you out. Best of luck.
jeff (san francisco)
It seems like Bama hasn't closed the deal for top defensive lineman for the last two years, what's been the issue?
Alex Scarborough (12:42 PM)
I look at rookies like Jeoffrey Pagan and D.J. Pettway and see things differently. Yeah, they've lost a few battles which might have something to do with the system of defense they run, but the Tide are still getting top-notch talent at the position every year.
C.J. Mosley has really stepped up and, along with Lester, seems to have become the leader on the defensive side. What type of attention is he getting from the NFL?
Alex Scarborough (12:44 PM)
There are grumblings but nothing definitive. If he continues putting up the numbers he has this season, he could become very attractive to NFL teams. His sideline-to-sideline speed is very impressive and he simply does not let tackles go by the wayside.
Ed (Huntsville, AL)
With the emergence of Amari Cooper and the woes of the LSU offense at this point, I feel like Cooper will see several double teams and at the very least over-the-top coverage to avoid the big play. Do you think this will open the door for Michael Williams to make some big plays?
Alex Scarborough (12:46 PM)
I don't know about how much double coverage they'll put on Cooper. Frankly, I think they'll take their chances loading the box and daring AJ to throw it over the top. That said, we did see Williams make more plays last week than he has all season. The emergence of Cooper could have something to do with that.
Dan Mullen (Starkville, MS)
Did you chalk up last Saturday's game as such an easy victory that you didn't need to show up for last week's chat? Guess you were right. Bama handed it to us pretty good in Tuscaloosa.
Alex Scarborough (12:47 PM)
Ha! No, that's not the case. I had to help out with basketball coverage at SEC Media Days in Hoover so I couldn't be here for the chat. That shouldn't be a problem the rest of the season.
Any chance we see the "Blake-cat" early in the game to change things up?
Alex Scarborough (12:49 PM)
Eh, I don't know about that. The Blake-run Wildcat hasn't been very successful and I don't see LSU falling for the gimmick. I think Alabama would be wise to go strength versus strength and let the chips fall where they may.
Do you think Nick will use Jeremy Shelley in the intermediate (45-50)Field Goal Range as opposed to using Cade who's confidence appears shaky?
Alex Scarborough (12:50 PM)
I don't see Saban changing things up like that. I think if he did that it would send the wrong message and really set Foster back further. Yes, I believe people should be paying attention to his confidence, but I don't think it's to the point where you pull him.
ALA/LSU rematch in NC game if if both have one-loss? Clearly better teams than undefeated teams like Oregon, KSU, who play in weak conferences.
Alex Scarborough (12:51 PM)
There's no way we see that again. There's a scenario where the numbers would add up but I don't see voters allowing it for a second straight year.
Do you think this years defense is better than last years?
Alex Scarborough (12:54 PM)
Simply put, no. Alabama's defense is more dynamic and has made more big plays than last year, but the 2011 defense was historically dominant. They didn't force as many turnovers in the stat sheet but the number of three-and-outs is staggering. You don't just lose stalwarts like Mark Barron, Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw and improve. It just doesn't work that way. What you may see as an improvement in the stats, you might overlook as a decline in experience and leadership.
Bama Fan (Denver)
I'd like to ask a "karma" question. We got VERY lucky last year to even get a second shot at LSU and we made the most of it. But my sense is that even though Bama looks better on paper, the luck of everybody losing that needed to lose last year is so fortuitous that I wonder whether LSU will take advantage of that. Calm my fears, Alex!
Alex Scarborough (12:56 PM)
Trying to read the tea leaves in college football is a fruitless task. Things change too rapidly to make sense of it all. Just keep calm and carry on.
mtmcelvy (Destin, FL)
I think Bell on the deep ball has as much to do with opening up the underneath routes as anything. If he gets past the DB he's gone.
Alex Scarborough (12:57 PM)
Good point. Bell has turned into Alabama's go-to guy in the vertical passing game. There are very few defensive backs who can keep up with him. He's added another dimension to the passing game that wasn't there a year ago.
Alex Scarborough (12:59 PM)
Well, folks, that's all the time I've got. Enjoy the game on Saturday and we'll do this again next week. Same time, same place.