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!
Alex Scarborough (12:02 PM)
Glad to be back for my weekly turn in the chat room here at ESPN.com. Thanks for being here. I hope you all are enjoying the time between now and the bowl game to rest up and get ready for the festivities. That said, let's jump into the questions.
Darren (Decatur, Georgia)
Alex, I can't wait to the title game! I know ND's front 7 will provide a stiffer challenge than UGA's because they're better coached. But I still think the O-line should win that battle as the game progresses and the speed advantage with our backs should help that cause too. The 10 yarders we were getting against UGA once reaching the 2nd level could go for more against ND's bigger but slower linebacking core. Your thoughts?
Alex Scarborough (12:06 PM)
Notre Dame's front seven is better than Georgia's, especially when it comes to stopping the run. The Irish defense has allowed just two rushing touchdowns all season. When you think about that, that's pretty amazing. I do, however, believe Alabama's offensive line will have success in Miami. The speed and power of Lacy and Yeldon will wear down Notre Dame defense in the second half. It all depends on how committed Nussmeier and Saban will stay with the run. I don't think we'll see a 350-yard performance like we did in Atlanta, but maybe something more along the lines of 220-240 yards on the ground would do the trick.
William Allen Parish (Jacksonville, Fl.)
So is there anything to the buzz I am hearing about Saban going back to the NFL?
Alex Scarborough (12:08 PM)
Not that I can tell. I spoke to the Alabama athletic director on Tuesday and he told me how Saban is not fond of the NFL coaching experience. He equated it to a factory which lacks personal relationships. While we see Saban from the outside as being somewhat cold and methodical, on the inside people like Mal Moore know him to enjoy the collegial atmosphere. I don't think we'll see Saban go back into the NFL again, even when you consider his competitive nature. That said, a big pile of cash has been known to change many a folks minds.
Austin Spraggins (Birmingham)
Are there any players that you think will return from injury to play in the NC game? Bell seems like a stretch and why would we bring J. Williams back for one game?
Alex Scarborough (12:10 PM)
Bell actually seems like the most likely guy to return, in my opinion. That's an answer somewhat by default, though, when you consider the nature of all the other players' injuries. I doubt we'll see Jarrick Williams back for one game, even though the secondary could use some more depth. Bell isn't going to be back in playing shape for a while but the fact that he's even on a football field right now is way ahead of the schedule I thought we'd see. Don't count him out.
Chris Newton (Salt Lake City)
Who starts all the Nick Saban rumors each year? Auburn fans?
Alex Scarborough (12:14 PM)
I don't know, but I've been blamed for it a few times and I'm just as confused as y'all. I think some of this comes from the NFL level where names like Saban's, Chip Kelly's and others get bandied about on a regular basis. It's almost like floating a VP candidate just to gauge the reaction. Either way, it's interesting fodder for conversation. The fact that Saban is an NFL guy always leads people to believe he'll go back one day.
Austin Spraggins (Birmingham)
Who do you think will be the starting 5 on the offensive line next year?
Alex Scarborough (12:15 PM)
If I had to guess: LT Cyrus Kouandjio, LG Anthony Steen, C Ryan Kelly, RG Arie Kouandjio, RT Leon Brown/Austin Shepherd/Unknown. The right tackle position will be toughest to determine. There will be heavy competition there in the spring as Brown enrolls in January.
Ryan (Tampa, FL)
Rumor has Kenny Bell coming closer and closer to a return. With 19 days until the Title game, what would you put his odds at as returning this season?
Alex Scarborough (12:17 PM)
If you had asked me a week ago I would have put them at single-digits. Now, I'd lean closer to 20-25 percent. He may dress out for the game, but it's hard for me to imagine him rehabbed and back in playing shape by the time Jan. 7 rolls around. Like Chris Black in the SEC Championship Game, Bell could be brought to the sidelines as an "if necessary" option in case the offense falters and needs him to come on.
Austin Spraggins (Birmingham)
If Lacy does indeed leave early, will TJ be the starter followed by Fowler and Hart? Also, what freshman do you see making the biggest impact next year?
Alex Scarborough (12:20 PM)
T.J. Yeldon will be the starter next season should Eddie Lacy decides to turn pro, which is something we fully expect to happen. Remember that Fowler and Hart will both be coming off of major knee injuries and might not be 100 percent for a while. I think we'll see Fowler as the starting H-back and Hart as the co-No. 2 tailback with Kenyan Drake. We'll wait and see how the other commitments do when they arrive before we start talking about what will be an extremely crowded depth chart at running back next year.
How do you know the BAMA players are taking the game seriously, seeing as how everyone has already declared that BAMA will win? I'm scared of overconfidence by our guys. Thoughts?
Alex Scarborough (12:23 PM)
This is going to sound cliche, but it's been shown time and time again to be true: With Nick Saban at the helm, there is little chance if any that overconfidence and a lack of focus will hurt Alabama. His program does not work that way. Check out my story today. With the championship game 18 days away, Alabama isn't really talking about Notre Dame or what the environment in Miami will be like. The Tide are focused on fundamentals. Think about that for a second -- fundamentals. The No. 2 team in the country came back from a two-week layoff to work on tackling, blocking and playing pitch-and-catch. They're not worried about the other team and that's been Saban's M.O. since he arrived. Because of that, I don't think overconfidence will be an issue. Alabama is too focused on itself for that to creep in.
Austin Spraggins (Birmingham)
What team does ND most remind you of that Alabama has played this year?
Alex Scarborough (12:27 PM)
I know it's not a trick question but I'll answer it like it is anyways: Alabama. It's like the spring game or every day at practice, the two teams are so similar, especially on defense. They play the same 3-4 style and have the same type of big athletes. The pro-style offenses are similar, too. The only departure I see is the quarterback being a dual-threat guy (but he's not the same Johnny Manziel-type) and the tight end being arguably the best in the country. Alabama has not faced a tight end of Tyler Eifert's caliber all season. Not even close, as a matter of fact.
Freddy (Andalusia, AL)
Any thoughts on the recent Saban rumors swirling around about him leaving?
Alex Scarborough (12:30 PM)
See my previous answer. I don't buy into them. Read this report from our guy at ESPN Cleveland: http://espncleveland.com/common/more.php?m=49&post_id=9761
Bill (Sioux Falls, SD)
Hi Alex - I haven't watched a lot of Alabama this year, just the A&M and Georgia games. Has Alabama had to a tight end like Tyler Eifert or a running back that can catch passes out of the backfield like Theo Riddick? What will Alabama's approach be to stop or contain them? thanks.
Alex Scarborough (12:34 PM)
Alabama should handle Theo Riddick just fine. The Tide have faced a number of well-rounded tailbacks that can catch the ball out of the backfield. In fact, the way Alabama practices with Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon catching plenty of passes, they'll be prepared. Eifert is another story. Alabama has faced plenty of talented tight ends this season, but none as good as him. Expect the linebackers to play very physical with Eifert and try to knock him off his routes at the line of scrimmage. From there I think we'll see a defensive back take over in coverage as none of the linebackers match up well in that respect. Mosley is too small and Johnson and Hubbard are a tad behind in terms of athleticism and would likely struggle to keep position.
Papa Doc (Voodoo Lounge)
re Saban - Bear was either headed to NFL or retiring every year
Alex Scarborough (12:35 PM)
Good point. That's how it is when you're at the top of your profession.
Papa Doc (Voodoo Lounge)
talking heads Rx for Irish victory involves an offensive strategy that we've not seen from this ND team - will Irish dance with who brung'em
Alex Scarborough (12:37 PM)
They certainly should. I've said all season that the only way to beat Alabama is to play your style and not think too far outside the box. Gimmicks don't work against Nick Saban, at least not for long enough to win a football game. I think we'll see a lot of ideas floated out there about what Notre Dame should do differently, but at the end of the day we'll see Brian Kelly stick to his guns. When you're the No. 1 team in the country, you play your way and force the other team to make adjustments -- not the other way around.
How much will Josh McNeil's decommitment hurt this year's recruiting class?
Alex Scarborough (12:40 PM)
If Alabama didn't have O.J. Howard locked up and a few other TE prospects interested, I'd say it would hurt a lot. But Alabama has those things so even though McNeil is one of the top prospects in the country, his decommitment isn't the end of the world. Howard is the best offensive prospect I've watched all year. He could change the tight end position at Alabama with his ability in the passing game.
Carl LaFong (Warsaw In)
I have a hard time thinking Alabama is just gonna automatically wear down ND's front seven who are two deep. Apparently you haven't seen their speed at linebacker? Isn't it fact that Jones has had a hard time against big athletic nose tackles like Nix?
Alex Scarborough (12:43 PM)
You're right about Barrett Jones struggling in the SEC title game. He certainly did not look like himself. But when you factor in the other four guys around him, I don't see how anyone let alone Notre Dame can stop them. You're talking about two potential first-round prospects on the left side of the line in Chance Warmack and Cyrus Kouandjio. If Alabama hammers away there with Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon, it will eventually pay dividends. The one are Notre Dame might find success against the O-line is rushing the passer. That should be Alabama's No. 1 concern on offense. The Tide are a pedestrian 55th in sacks allowed this season.
Tom (Abingdon, VA)
Do you think Barret Jones will be 100% for the title game?
Alex Scarborough (12:46 PM)
Probably not, but not many linemen are 100 percent at the end of the season. I fully expect he'll play and be effective.
Charlie (Indianapolis, IN)
Hey Alex, how good of a shot do you give Notre Dame at winning? I've noticed that Bama has had a little trouble containing QB's that can run.
Alex Scarborough (12:47 PM)
I don't think it's a pick 'em situation. I see Alabama as the favorite, but not by a wide margin. If Notre Dame can score first, get Everrett settled in and set the tempo, then the Irish have a very good shot at pulling off the W.
Alex Scarborough (12:49 PM)
Yes and no. The only reason I'd give pause is remembering the way Todd Gurley and the Georgia offense was able to run the ball in the SEC title game. No team has truly played a full four quarters of physical, north-south power football against Alabama all year. We don't know how the defense will handle that if Notre Dame goes that route.
Carl LaFong (Warsaw In)
What will Bama's strategy be if ND goes five wide?
Alex Scarborough (12:50 PM)
Do you really expect that to happen much? Because I don't. If the Irish do, that means we'll see a bunch of safeties on the field for Alabama as the Tide are pretty thin at cornerback.
Sumitrom the Leprechaun King (Florida)
The laws of physics clearly state that when an elephant sees a leprechaun, it runs away with it's tail between it's legs. That being said, how badly do you think the Fightin Irish lambaste the Tide?
Alex Scarborough (12:51 PM)
Umm, I'll have to see where that law is written before I can answer. I'm a writer so physics and the like are well beyond my scope of knowledge.
What is your gut feeling on Robert Foster's looming announcement?
Alex Scarborough (12:52 PM)
Heard he's leaning toward staying closer to home, but Alabama represents a unique opportunity for him. That's probably a non-answer but thankfully we'll get the real thing soon from Foster himself.
How many players do you expect Alabama to sign in this class?
Alex Scarborough (12:53 PM)
Probably not a full class. There are something like 18 signed as we speak. I'd say add a few more but not more than four or five.
Do you think Kirby Smart stays at Alabama another year, or does he get offered another head coaching job and leaves? Being the 2012 AFCA FBS Assistant Coach of the Year can not hurt his resume.
Alex Scarborough (12:54 PM)
I don't see a job opportunity open now that would pull him away from Alabama. He more than likely waits a year to make his move.
John Moore (Orlando, FL / Chelsea, AL)
Mr. Scarborough,Thank you for taking the time to answer all of these questions. I'm not sure how much access you have to Lou Holtz, but if you do see or talk to him, please ask him to stop being so partial towards ND. I understand that he coached there, etc. but it seems like he is always just talking about how good they (ND)are and being a chearleader for them on television. Did he see the Pitt game? In regards to the NC game, if Alabama gets down to the ND 6 yard line and tries to pass the ball in, I think it would be a huge mistake. Do you think that they will be able to rush it in from that distance against ND or do you think that their defense is that good? I think that Alabama would overpower them at the point of attack (especially if Jesse Williams is the the backfield). Happy Holidays!Thank you!
Alex Scarborough (12:56 PM)
Seeing as I'm in Tuscaloosa and Lou is in Bristol, I don't have much contact with him. If I do see him, I'll be sure to ask him why he thinks so highly of Notre Dame. Then again, I think pretty highly of the Irish myself. Yes, they won a few nail-biters that could have gone either way, but that's college football. Their defense is superb and their offense can do just enough.
Alex, I never heard anything more about Ed Stinson after the SECCG. Was his injury not serious, or can you give us an update on him?
Alex Scarborough (12:56 PM)
He's been out at practice, so I'd assume he's good to go. Saban did not mention his name among the injured on Tuesday.
Who do you expect to see more playing time against ND, Geno Smith or Deion Belue?
Alex Scarborough (12:57 PM)
It's still Deion Belue, despite his recent struggles. It's too late in the season to unseat a starting cornerback, especially when you're asking a true freshman to do it.
Scratches (the Gump, AL)
Who's going to make Te'o look as bad as AJ McCarron made Mathieu look in last year's BCS title game?
Alex Scarborough (12:59 PM)
Two different positions. It's hard for a QB to make a LB look bad. Maybe Lacy or Yeldon, but not McCarron. Besides, Te'o is one heck of a linebacker. I don't see anyone embarrassing him.
Alex Scarborough (1:00 PM)
Well folks, that's all the time I've got. Thanks for participating and if I didn't get to your question, I apologize. Come back in two weeks (we're taking a hiatus for the holidays next week) or stop by TideNationESPN.com and ask your questions on the forum there. Cheers!
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