Alabama's offense flashes diversity, play-calling placards
The third-ranked Crimson Tide adjusted to life without some of the top playmakers from last season and with Jake Coker taking most of the snaps at quarterback against No. 20 Wisconsin. Alabama also broke out a variety of placards to signal in plays, ranging from the Seattle Supersonics logo to the Tasmanian Devil.
That's nothing new for college football with all the no-huddle teams, but it's another indication of the Tide's adaptation to being able to go up tempo more often.
''It's cool probably for the fans but for us, we look at it more like it has a meaning to us,'' tight end O.J. Howard said Monday. ''So we don't really get caught up in the funny-looking signs. Some of them are pretty funny to us, especially when we get new ones. But at the same time, they mean things to us so we really don't get caught up in what they stand for or what they look like.''
His favorite is a Domino's Pizza sign, since he's a fan.
The signs don't mean Alabama is trying to be fast like Oregon or Baylor, but they do help expedite the process of communicating the play to all 11 players on the field. The only blip came when the Tide's signal flashers didn't get the call in time because the coaches' headsets went down.
''Other than that we didn't have any kind of mechanical issues,'' Alabama coach Nick Saban said. ''I thought it went pretty smoothly.''
Alabama started running a more fast-paced offense at times last season partly because quarterback Blake Sims thrived in that style. Some things haven't changed.
The offense still showed it had a formidable backfield duo in Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake during the 35-17 win over the Badgers. Henry ran for 147 yards while Drake had 77 rushing yards and 48 receiving yards along with a play of 30-plus yards in each category.
Coker and Cooper Bateman both had success passing the ball, and each could play Saturday against 34-point underdog Middle Tennessee as well. Saban bristled at a reporter's question about using this game specifically to create quarterback competition against a heavy underdog but is hoping both can build off a successful opener.
''I don't think there's any question about the fact that both quarterbacks did a nice job when they were in there, and that's going to help their confidence and growth,'' Saban said.
He didn't shed any light on a quarterback plan or pecking order against the Blue Raiders.
The Tide did spread the ball around more in the passing game in the first outing without Amari Cooper gobbling up so many of the passes. Alabama had nine players log catches in the opener, with receivers Robert Foster and ArDarius Stewart collecting four apiece.
Howard caught three passes for 37 yards.
''I think that's the most important thing about our offense,'' the tight end said. ''We have so many weapons on the offensive side of the ball and you never know who to key in on. We had a lot of guys have catches, and that's going to make it hard for us to be stoppable this season.''