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Alabama football 2019: Schedule, roster, recruiting and three questions for Crimson Tide

Published on Apr. 1, 2019 | Updated on Apr. 4, 2019

The 2019 college football season will be an interesting one for Alabama.

The Crimson Tide enter 2019 with their usual heavy player turnover, but also must replace a bevy of assistants after 2018 — a banner year up until the Tide’s 44-16 defeat by Clemson in the College Football Playoff national championship, the worst ever under Nick Saban.

That loss begs the question: Is the dynasty over, or will Saban use it as motivation to make his team even better?

Alabama returns most of its offensive firepower after an explosive season, headlined by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, running back Najee Harris and wide receivers corps that could rank as the best in the nation. The Tide lost several defensive contributors from last year’s team, however, and the secondary will be a big question mark heading into the season.

The Crimson Tide are the top-ranked team in Sporting News’ pre-preseason top 25, and have something that should put the rest of the college football world on notice: A chip on their shoulder. Here’s a closer look at the Tide heading into 2019:

Alabama football schedule 2019

Bold denotes SEC games

Alabama football recruiting 2019

Alabama got back on track in 2019 to earn its eighth top-ranked recruiting in nine years, according to 247Sports’ Composite rankings. The Tide secured 27 commits, including three five-star players in defensive end Antonio Alfano, who could contribute immediately along the front seven, running back Trey Sanders and offensive tackle Evan Neal, all the top-ranked players at their position. The Tide also secured 23 four-star players and 12 top-100 recruits, more than any other team. Not to be dismissed is the return of linebacker Eyabi Anoma, the crown of Alabama’s 2018 recruiting class, after he briefly submitted his name to the NCAA transfer portal.

Alabama football roster 2019

Alabama’s 2019 roster can be found here.

MORE: SEC primer

What to watch from Alabama in 2019

1. How will the Tide secondary respond?

The last time we saw this team take the field, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence torched the secondary for 347 yards and three touchdowns to Travis Etienne, Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins. Moreover, talented safety Deionte Thompson and cornerback Saivion Smith declared early for the NFL Draft. But with Xavier McKinney, Patrick Surtain II, Shyheim Carter (sports hernia) and a healthy Trevon Diggs returning, it seems Alabama should have an experienced secondary to lean on in 2019. Saban brought on former FSU defensive coordinator Charles Kelly to coach the safeties alongside defensive coordinator Karl Scott, but expect him to take a proactive approach to correct the weaknesses Clemson exploited.

2. What will Steve Sarkisian’s offense look like?

With Tagovailoa under center in 2018, Alabama enjoyed one of the most efficient, explosive seasons in college football history. But that was under Mike Locksley. Sarkisian — who infamously served as Alabama’s offensive coordinator in the 2017 championship game before leaving for the Atlanta Falcons — is now back in Tuscaloosa. Fans will remember how former quarterback Jalen Hurts struggled in that game (13 of 31 passing, 131 yards, one touchdown), but Sarkisian also has mentored the likes of USC greats Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez. Considering the targets Tagovailoa has in Jerry Jeudy, Devonta Smith, Henry Ruggs and Jaylen Waddle, it shouldn’t be a problem. That said, don’t be surprised if Alabama commits more to the run in 2019. The Tide rushed for fewer than 200 yards in five of their last six games, including a 148-yard effort against Clemson — previously unthinkable for a Saban-coached team. With Harris, Brian Robinson and Sanders in tow, look for Alabama to get back to dominating up front a little more.

3. Is the Saban dynasty over?

To put it shortly, no. But make no mistake: Alabama is in unchartered waters. The defeat by Clemson wasn’t just Alabama’s worst of the Saban era. You’d have to go back to the 1998 Music City Bowl — a 38-7 loss to Virginia Tech — to find a worse loss. How did that happen? Part of it was Alabama’s weakness in the secondary, the offense’s inability to move against a dominant Clemson front seven and, most notably, the fact Alabama was out-coached. That was a side effect of Alabama’s seemingly constant coaching turnover, but also the fact Saban may have overreacted to Georgia’s excellent 2018 signing class by bringing on several younger coaches who emphasize recruiting.

Alabama’s coaching staff once again faces major overhaul, with Locksley, quarterbacks coach Dan Enos, receivers coach Josh Gattis, offensive line coach Brent Key, co-defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi and defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski gone, among others. Saban has replaced them with familiar, veteran options. How that affects the on-field product remains to be seen, but you can tell these moves were made in an effort to make sure Alabama is not out-coached again. And as long as Saban leads the Tide, you can expect them to be a heavy Playoff favorite.

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