Are Alabama football, Nick Saban returning to joyless murderball with Tommy Rees hire? | Goodbread
There are plenty of questions about what the Alabama football offense will look like in 2023, and chief among them are how it will be quarterbacked and how it will be coordinated.
The answer to the quarterback question, with two-year starter Bryce Young now off to the NFL, will begin to reveal itself in spring practice when Jalen Milroe and Ty Simpson battle with two incoming freshmen who enrolled for the spring term. As for a new offensive coordinator, we know this much about Tommy Rees, who is reportedly coach Nick Saban's choice for the job: he likes to run the ball.
And he'll tell you so, right from the message pinned to the top of his Twitter feed: Run the damn ball.
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That should hit like music to the ears of Crimson Tide fans who clamored for a more consistent rushing attack last season. What doesn't hit like music is where the Fighting Irish ranked offensively last year, Rees' third as its coordinator: 60th nationally in total offense (396 yards per game), and 42nd in scoring (31.8 points per game). Was that more a function of the job Rees did, or more about the on-field talent he had to work with? That was a point of debate, now a dead one, for Notre Dame fans. Meanwhile, Alabama fans wondered why the SEC's best rushing offense on a per-carry basis (5.55 yards) ranked only seventh in the league in rushing yards per game (195.5).
A look at Rees' offenses suggests he would never have that problem.
The Fighting Irish ran the ball 532 times last year and passed only 338 times, for a percentage split of 61/39. That's not exactly the modern model, but then again, Georgia also ran the ball more than half the time and went 15-0.
Rees is also fan of tight ends, and lots of them. He frequently employed the "12" personnel grouping (one running back, two tight ends) at Notre Dame; and in short-yardage and goal-line situations, two tight ends isn't always enough for him. His offense got to the line of scrimmage quickly, but not always to snap the ball quickly. At times, in what has been described as a "scan" offense, the idea is to allow for plenty of time to adjust to how the defense presents itself, and change the play if necessary. Rees called plays from the booth, where he could clearly see the defensive alignment and communicate with ample time on the play clock.
Of course, it would be unwise to presume that Alabama's 2023 offense will look just like what Rees ran at Notre Dame. The best indication of that would come from Saban, and in his only public comment on that topic, he hinted at a return to more reliance on the running game.
"I think (in 2021 and 2022), we’ve kind of gone more even to the drop-back passing, and that’s because of Bryce (Young)," Saban said on his radio show prior to Alabama's Nov. 12 game against Ole Miss. "But I think in the future, we’ll get back to more of the conventional spread, run the ball, have more balance, RPOs, that type of thing. So what we’ve done now is to sort of fit what Bryce does best.”
It'll be Rees' job to fit what all 11 players do best, not just the quarterback.
And if that task meshes with his track record, the run-the-damn-ball crowd is about to get its way.
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @chasegoodbread.
This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Alabama football, Nick Saban get joyless murderball with Tommy Rees?