Heading into Saturday’s matchup against No. 2 Alabama, there are still several uncertainties as to what West Virginia should expect to see from the Crimson Tide’s offense.
Head coach Nick Saban made it clear he won’t be naming a starting quarterback before kickoff, and everyone’s anxious to see what kind of curveballs – if any – first-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin might throw at the Mountaineer defense.
Despite all the uncertainty, there are a few things West Virginia fans can expect to see Saturday afternoon.
Alabama features a three-headed monster at running back in T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake. Yeldon rushed for more than 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons and figures to get the majority of the carries Saturday.
Henry, a former five-star prospect out of high school, possesses a blend of size, speed and power. At 6-foot-3, 241 pounds, Henry showcased his skills against Oklahoma in the 2014 Sugar Bowl when he ran rampant all over the Sooners’ defense late in the game.
Drake, who rushed for 694 yards on 92 carries last season, is the speedster of the three backs. Saban said he is also a good receiver, making him a versitile player.
With the uncertainty at quarterback, expect to see a heavy dose of Yeldon, Henry and Drake early and often.
The Crimson Tide also possesses a bevy of playmakers at receiver and tight end. Amari Cooper, who led the team last season with 45 receptions for 736 yards while hindered by a foot injury, might be the best receiver in the nation.
Cooper has the innate ability to stretch defenses and threaten them vertically. With a strong-armed quarterback in Jacob Coker, I expect Kiffin to dial up several deep shots to Cooper.
As a true freshman in 2013, tight end O.J. Howard gave opposing defenses fits. At 6-foot-6, 240 pounds – and with speed like a receiver – Howard causes matchup nightmares.
Alabama will be starting a true freshman at left tackle against the Mountaineers. Cameron Robinson, who checks in at 6-foot-6, 323 pounds, was widely regarded as the best high school prospect in the country last year.
“They say they’re starting a true freshman, then I figured out he was the No. 1 player in the country and he was there all spring, so I really don’t consider him much of a true freshman,” said West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen.
On defense, Saban said the defensive line is more experienced and athletic than last season. Stud defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson is expected to play nose tackle in Alabama’s three-man front against the Mountaineers’ spread offense.
Saban also said the Tide is a little thin at linebacker, but the secondary is more experienced than a year ago.
Alabama’s secondary is anchored by veteran safety Landon Collins. Collins is a gifted athlete with the innate ability to cover receivers and support in run defense. I expect him to be all over the field Saturday.