Daily Focus: Will Alabama employ 2-QB system in season opener?
Editor’s note: Every day in “Daily Focus,” PFF analysts take the latest college football news and translate what it really means for each team involved.
2-QB system at Bama?: Head coach Nick Saban finally revealed his plans at quarterback for the opener against USC as he announced that either junior Cooper Bateman or redshirt freshman Blake Barnett will start in the game. Bateman threw 52 passes last season, losing out to QB Jake Coker early in the year as they went head-to-head for the job. Coker went on to finish with a 73.6 grade while Bateman posted a 61.0 during his limited time. We’ve yet to see Barnett on a college field, but we graded his work at the 2014 Elite 11 when he took home the trophy as the nation’s top quarterback. It was an eye-opening week for Barnett, who peppered the field with accurate passes while displaying strong decision-making, so it’s no surprise to us that he’s strongly in the mix as a redshirt freshman.
Here’s a look at Bateman’s breakdown in his limited time last season:
USC without starting LT: At Trojans camp, starting left tackle Chad Wheeler has been banged up and he’s been ruled out against Alabama. Wheeler played the most snaps of any USC offensive linemen last season, showing well in both pass protection and in the run game. He’ll be replaced by OT Chuma Edoga who played 364 snaps last season as a true freshman, including two starts. While Edoga had his struggles in the early going, he finished with his best performance of the year as he got the start in the bowl game against Wisconsin, grading well in the run game while not surrendering a pressure in his 39 attempts.
Edoga will be challenged by Alabama’s pass-rushers, namely OLBs Ryan Anderson and Tim Williams (No. 37 and 28 on the PFF College 101, respectively) and subpackage rusher Rashaan Evans. Anderson picked up 10 sacks, 10 QB hits, and 48 hurries on only 342 rushes the last two seasons, while Williams recorded 52 total pressures on just 148 attempts — a pressure once every 2.8 pass rushing attempts.
Meanwhile, Evans has pressured the quarterback at a similarly high rate with six sacks, four hits, and 11 hurries of his own on only 98 rushes. Edoga’s ability to hold up against Anderson, Williams and Evans, and anyone else Alabama throws at him will go a long way toward USC moving the ball offensively against a stout defensive front.
Notre Dame announces starting safeties: With Max Redfield dismissed from the team, Notre Dame will officially start two new safeties on the back end of the defense. Head coach Brian Kelly named Avery Sebastian and Drue Tranquill as the starters with true freshman Devin Studstill as the top backup. We have only 156 snaps of data on Sebastian who transferred from Cal where he posted an average grade and missed four of his 19 tackles attempts in 2014. Tranquill saw the field for 416 snaps as a true freshman in 2014 where he played about two-thirds of his run snaps in the box (on pace for 20th-highest in the nation). He was solid in run support but struggled in coverage, and he was off to a better start last season before going down to injury after only 89 snaps. Tackling has been an issue for Tranquill during his short career, and like Sebastian, it’s an area that must improve for Notre Dame to live up to expectations this season.