Alabama vs. Arkansas
To me, this game was much closer then it needed to be and I did not agree with Alabama’s defensive game plan. Why Saban decided to wait until the 4th quarter to really start blitzing Mallett is beyond me. Nearly every time the Tide blitzed in the 4th quarter, Mallett was forced to get out of the pocket, move his feet and make a bad throw. That is the MO on Mallett. When he is pressured and forced to move his feet, his decision making and his accuracy go out the window. For those of you who think it was too early in the game to blitz and Saban did not want to take any unnecessary chances, that is exactly what Alabama did in the first half and Mallett picked them apart.
Ryan Mallett – He fell apart in the 4th quarter for sure but I do not think he played horribly. There’s no question he has a strong arm but I was most impressed by his touch on the ball. He has the ability to make some wonderful throws and I especially liked the down field pass to Childs; Mallett dropped the ball in beautifully to him. However, having a strong arm and being able to throw a ball with touch do not make an elite NFL QB. He is literally a statue back there and without a Dan Marino release, mobility is always going to be a concern. Additionally, when pressured and forced to move, his lack of sound footwork really shows as he becomes extremely inaccurate. As well, he does not step into his throws, relying solely on his arm and he does not point his feet/body towards his target when passing, again decreasing his accuracy. I thought he did a decent job of going through his progressions and he does seem to be able to look off his receivers, but his decision making ability and ball placement were atrocious. Mallett performed well in the first half when Alabama did not pressure him, but the second that he was pressured he started to make mistakes.
As for the Locker-Mallett debate, let me throw in my 2 cents. At this point, both these guys are development QB’s and neither deserve to be a first round pick. However, because QB is such a need position they likely will be and two teams will see the potential in both and gamble. These guys both suffer from some of the same issues; both have big arms, but they lack the decision making and football intelligence to be starters at the next level. To me, Locker would be the better choice, as he is more athletic and from all accounts does not suffer from the off the field and character issues that Mallett does. However, Mallett has performed better in big games up this point then Locker has.
DeMarcus Love – I thought he had a great game. In pass protection he mirrored his assignments well the entire game, never appearing to be overextended and played well enough in the run game. I really think he has the feet and the long arms to be a left tackle at the next level. He does need to improve his footwork but my main concern with him is his lack of explosiveness/aggression at the POA, especially in the run game. I just do not get that feeling of nastiness from him that I like to see in lineman. As well, he exhibits only above average strength, capable of being overpowered and is vulnerable to the bull rush. However, given his feet, long arms and balance, Love is one of the top tackles I have seen this year.
Marcell Dareus – I did not get to see as much from him because of a first half injury, but liked what I did see. Possesses good size, extremely athletic and runs very well for the position, displaying an elite level explosiveness at the snap. On a couple plays he was even meeting the ball carrier at the sideline, which is pretty impressive from a DT. However, I did not see him applying a huge amount of pressure to Mallett in the first half. Now he was double teamed a good portion of the time but if you are a 1st round pick talent you need to be fighting through those double teams. I still would like to see more from him as I know he is athletic and has great potential. But to me, he is still inconsistent and other then the championship game last year I have not seen this guy completely take over a game.
Dont’a Hightower – I was not impressed with him. I thought he took too many false steps, was not reading the play well and was not aggressive enough. Not sure if he is overwhelmed having to take over for McClain and be the quarterback of the defense but it appeared like he was thinking too much rather then reacting and using his instincts. He also failed to demonstrate the speed and athleticism that I thought were cornerstones of his game.
Most Impressive Player on the Field
Mark Ingram – I know this guy was a Heisman winner last year and he is already thought of as elite. However, he took it to another level on Saturday and took over the game. Great acceleration, vision and stiff arm but I was most impressed with his balance, especially on his long TD run in the first half. This guy is the best running back in the country and I can’t see any back being taken ahead of him in the 2011 draft.
Look for my next column on Thursday or Friday when I preview another game of the week.