Pick Six with Alabama beat writer Chase Goodbread

This week’s Pick Six is with Alabama beat writer Chase Goodbread of the Tuscaloosa News and TideSports.com. Chase has been covering Alabama football since 2007.

Alabama has won every game by at least 19 points and trailed for all of 15 seconds, giving the appearance of a team with very small or very few weaknesses. What are the areas LSU can try to exploit?

There have been times this season when the Alabama running game hasn’t been particularly sharp. For the most part, it’s been effective, but it hasn’t been quite the same without Trent Richardson. It doesn’t qualify as a weakness, but is an area where the LSU defense could potentially hang its hat on Saturday. Another area where Alabama hasn’t been especially effective lately is kickoff coverage. Cade Foster touchbacks would be of value in Baton Rouge. Alabama ranks 101st in the nation in that category, allowing 24.2 yards per return.

Talk about the development of AJ McCarron. It seems that his confidence has  been on a steady upward climb since Jan. 9. How much does confidence play a part in his success, his ability to get passes in tough spots and of  course avoiding interceptions?

He is a better quarterback this season, but the perception that he’s come leaps and bounds is a little off-base. In 2011, he completed 67 percent of his passes, threw only five interceptions, and had Alabama not had a Heisman Trophy finalist running the ball, he likely would have eclipsed 3,000 yards. He finished with 2,634 in 13 games, right at 200 per game. This season, he’s been a better play-action passer and is throwing more touchdown passes. As well, the fact that he hasn’t thrown any interceptions is certainly garnering well-deserved attention. But in terms of the throws he’s making to do it, he’s been pretty much the same guy.

LSU fans are eager to hear about the progress of Dutchtown’s Landon Collins. Looks like he’s playing but not making a huge impact defensively, which could be an impact on his brother Gerald Willis, a 2014 prospect out of New Orleans Edna Karr. What can you tell us about his season?

Landon Collins is definitely making a difference on special teams for Alabama, and even blocked a punt a few weeks ago. He was never going to supplant a fifth-year senior and third-year starter like Robert Lester at one safety spot. Vinnie Sunseri was able to hold him off at the other, and he hasn’t been involved in the nickel/dime packages, either. The future is bright for Collins and his physical skills are readily apparent, but 2012 will be a special teams year for him.

Amari Cooper, Alabama’s outstanding freshman wide receiver, got “nicked” (Les Miles term) last week against Mississippi State. What is his status for this game?

Amari Cooper was limited in practice Monday and Tuesday but has made steady progress. Nick Saban said on Wednesday’s SEC teleconference that Cooper should be ready to practice fully on Wednesday. He’s a go for the game.

Alabama’s offensive line has been excellent as expected but has given up 17 sacks, a little over two per game. LSU averages a little under three sacks per game, third in the SEC. Is this a concern for the Crimson Tide?

It was a pretty big concern when Western Kentucky’s pressure scheme came up with six of those 17 sacks in week two. Since then, UA’s protection has been much improved for the most part. If LSU is able to get pressure, it is more likely to come from the right edge, where tackle D.J. Fluker plays. Left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio protects the other edge more effectively.

There is starting to be talk that Mack Brown will step down at the end of this season and that Texas may come after Saban. He has always had wanderlust in his blood, but given that he turned 61 Wednesday, do you see him leaving and/or retiring after this season as legitimate possibility? If Bama wins another national title there will be virtually no worlds left to conquer at the Capstone.
Хоббит Нежданное путешествие
Early in Saban’s career at Alabama, it was certainly harder to believe when he said he intended for UA to be his last stop. Six years in, however, it’s harder to doubt. Saban gives off a “been there, done that” vibe where the NFL is concerned. Absent another shot at the NFL, it’s hard to imagine a college job being more attractive than the one he has. If Las Vegas were to put out a line on how he finishes his career, retiring from Tuscaloosa would be a heavy favorite.