Trust continues to build between Brian Daboll and the Alabama offenseBy Cody Estremera | 12/30/2017 12:23pm
Alabama's offense is the No. 2 team in the SEC in yards per game in offensive coordinator Brian Daboll's first season at Alabama.
NEW ORLEANS—Under Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian, Alabama led the SEC in total yards, rushing yards and finished fifth in the conference in passing yards. Both left for other coaching ventures, opening the door for Brian Daboll.
The former New England Patriots coach took over a team that had plenty of offensive upside and the SEC Offensive Player of the Year in Jalen Hurts.
Through his first 12 games with Alabama, there's been some mixed results. Overall the Crimson Tide is the No. 4 offense in the SEC totaling 5,585 yards this year, but it has struggled to stay consistent in its last three SEC games.
In its last three conference games Alabama has 1,064 yards, and has scored 69 points in that span. However, in the fourth quarter the Crimson Tide has scored only 14 points in the fourth quarter, all of which came against Mississippi State to avoid the upset. Also in those fourth quarters, Alabama has 296 yards, 207 of which came in Starkville.
But Daboll and his staff aren’t worried about the past, just its upcoming matchup against Clemson.
“I'm really focused on this week,” Daboll said. I don't go back in terms of numbers or anything like that. And we'd be doing ourselves a disservice if we weren't concentrating solely on the task at hand with the team that we're about to play, personnel‑wise, scheme‑wise. Look, you try to put together a good plan every week, execute that plan and give your players the best chance to be successful.”
Hurts’ development was one of the most watched parts of Alabama’s offense this year. As a true freshman, he threw for 23 touchdowns, and was intercepted nine times. In his second season, his touchdowns dropped to 15, but he only was picked off one time.
“Your goal is to try to help those guys be better players as a coach," Daboll said. "So anything that you can do to try to improve them and teach them is important for that role, I think. But having a personal relationship with your players, they don't really care how much you know until they know how much you care. I've got a lot of respect for all the guys in our room. It's a demanding program. They work their tails off. They're good in their preparations. They practice hard. They're good students. They're good guys. So every day it's just like you and I met. We have to start somewhere and build up that relationship. And it's been good. I've got a good relationship with them."
One of the biggest part of Daboll’s scheme coming into the year was to use the tight ends more systematically than in the past couple of years. Last year, O.J. Howard was third on the team with 45 catches, no other tight end had more than five. This year Irv Smith leads the tight ends with 13 catches, which is tied for third on the team. Hale Hentges has six.
“He's done a great job,” Hentges said. “Irv and I, and the rest of our tight ends are really getting involved. We feel like we are an important part of the offense. Not just blocking, but a viable pass option. We feel like we may have gotten away from it in the past, but it’s been a really great blessing to us this year.”
While this is Daboll’s first time as an offensive coordinator, he has kept Alabama on track to the pace it was at last year. The biggest difference for the offense from the last time it played an ACC team (Florida State in the season opener) is the confidence that has built up between Daboll and the players.
“I think the biggest thing from the first game to now is getting more confident in Coach Daboll, and him getting more confident in the players,” running back Damien Harris said. “I think that's an important thing to develop over the course of a season, and we have all the confidence in the world in him to put us in the best position to succeed on offense.”