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Second look: Bama 52, Arkansas 0

9/17/2012
The Tide put together another impressive performance against Arkansas on Saturday. Beth Hall/US Presswire

After 24 hours of digestion, analysis of No. 1 Alabama's 52-0 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks:

On defense ...

• Outside linebackers Xzavier Dickson and Adrian Hubbard have taken their play to another level. Hubbard abused the Arkansas tackles on pass rush, showing off a good motor when he's in the game. He and Dickson don't quit on the play.

• This defense knows how to go on the offensive, turning turnovers into yards after recovery. On Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix's interception, nose guard Jesse Williams sprinted ahead of the speedy defensive back to throw a block. The 320-pound lineman showed just how athletic he is.



• When Vinnie Sunseri is around the ball, he makes plays. And he's around the ball often, playing well within the network of the defense. When he's given latitude to defend an area of the field, he shows very good instincts.

• Knile Davis had no chance with the way his line played. The defense was either hitting him in the backfield or stoning him at the line of scrimmage. It's not often backs are getting outside the tackles or to the second level of the Alabama defense, for that matter.

• All four safeties are on the field at the same time an awful lot. It's clear Saban likes Robert Lester and Sunseri near the line of scrimmage in run support and on the blitz. Clinton-Dix and Nick Perry are most often used in coverage.

C.J. Mosley and Nico Johnson are two solid, sure tacklers. They don't do anything flashy, but you won't see many yards after catch when they're near the football.

Deion Belue has stepped his game up after a so-so opener against Michigan. He seems more confident, challenging receivers by being more physical and attacking the ball.

On offense ...

AJ McCarron is running the offense as well as humanly possible. His 196.6 pass efficiency rating tells the story. He's making all the right reads, checking down when necessary and not forcing the pass when it's not there. He's shown great accuracy, putting the ball where receivers can catch it in stride and get yards after catch.

Christion Jones is going to get a gold star for his block on Amari Cooper's touchdown run. That was impressive, but his improvement in the passing game has been equally encouraging. If teams continue putting linebackers on him or let him run freely in zone coverage, he's going to rack up some major numbers.

• It looks like defenses are determined to load the box and stop the run, even if that means giving McCarron and Co. favorable coverage. The problem for defenses? Alabama's execution in play action.

• The running game got going when the offense spread it out a little bit, bringing a third receiver on the field and forcing Arkansas to honor the pass.

Eddie Lacy looked like his old self again, spinning out of tackles and cutting without hesitancy. When he can incorporate some of those moves with his violent running style it's a brutal combination.

Kenyan Drake showed some very nice moves late in the game. He hit Arkansas with a stop-and-go move for a touchdown. He used the move twice, planting his foot in the ground and cutting for a first down in the final minutes.

Kelly Johnson isn't the athletic threat Jalston Fowler was at H-back, but he simply doesn't miss his blocks. He's a big asset in the running game. If he can get involved in the passing game, it could open up the offense even further.

D.J. Fluker continues to look shaky at right tackle. He missed a handful of blocks where he simply got beat by a more athletic defensive end. As Alabama continues SEC play, it will be telling to see how Fluker holds up.

Chance Warmack is far and away the most impressive lineman on the field whenever Alabama plays. His strength and execution is remarkable. What's impressed me the most is his quickness getting to the second level of the defense.

Arie Kouandjio came in and played well in the fourth quarter. The depth he can provide could be key as the Tide enter the physically trying portion of the season. The second team line included Arie, Kellen Williams, Chad Lindsay, Ryan Kelly and Austin Shepherd. Saban kept the first team line in for the better part of the second half so backup quarterbacks Phillip Ely and Blake Sims could develop some chemistry with them if McCarron were to ever go down.

On special teams ...

Cody Mandell took a step back this week, not getting much distance on his punts against Arkansas. You might have to chalk it up to the weather and kicking a slick football. He'd looked very good through two weeks prior to Saturday.

Cade Foster continues to make strides in his junior season -- or maybe a lack of a stride. It looks as if Foster has cut down his field goal motion to just one step. It's paid off with better accuracy, connecting on two 50-plus attempts thus far. He didn't make a single field goal from that distance all of last season. He's also put 11 of 23 kickoffs in the end zone for touchbacks this season. He booted just five kickoffs for touchbacks in 2011-12.