Each week, the Lighthouse staff selects three offensive and three defensive players to shine a light on as the keys to victory. We are calling it “Three Sheets to the Win” because if we are wrong, we’re blaming it on being three sheets to the wind when we picked them. Make sense? Also, in sailing terms, sheets are lines. So, we’ll need these three lines all pulling in the same direction if we want to sail this ship to Pasadena! This week, we look at three offensive players who will have to have a good game in order to subdue and skin the Black Bear rebellion from Oxford, Mississippi.
Three Sheets to the Win on Offense
Ryan Kelly – Hey Diddle, Diddle, we’ve been soft in the middle and that problem was extremely evident against Colorado State. When your center is blown up so badly that he’s tripping up your running back four yards deep in the backfield then you’ve got problems. In the second half against Texas A&M, Kelly and the guards began pulling and they carved a path so that Terrance Cody could have averaged 7 yards a carry. But, against CSU Kelly didn’t pull one single time. Not once. It appears to us that Kelly may be better out in space so we are curious to see how he’ll be used Saturday night. Either way, he’s got to do a much better job at the point of attack for us to establish any semblance of a running game.
Amari Cooper – Last year against Ole Miss, Cooper had a coming out party that hadn’t been seen up in here since the likes of Julio Jones. Coop snagged 8 passes including two for touchdowns and five first downs and was one of the main reasons the Tide ended up winning the game fairly easily. This season we’ve seen the Mini Cooper instead of the Super Cooper so I’m wondering if it’s time to panic just a little bit. Cooper has been hampered by a toe/foot injury and he was held out against Colorado State to make sure he’s as close to full speed as possible for Ole Miss. After a week off, we are expecting big things from Coop and we need to see a little of the burst that made him so good last season.
Cyrus Kouandjio – Cyrus struggled against Virginia Tech and Colorado State so it will be interesting to see how he handles five-star DE Robert Nkemdiche. Nkemdiche loves to take an inside rush and can be very disruptive with his size and quickness. Over the years, Kouandjio has had difficulty with the smaller speed rushers who attack from the outside but he usually fares well against the bigger ends. This will be a fun match-up and Cryus really needs to shine Saturday night against the true freshman.
Three Sheets to the Win on Defense
Deion Belue – Turf toe injuries can be debilitating, especially for a corner, so it will be interesting to see how close to 100% Belue is Saturday night. Wikipedia tells us that turf toe is an injury to the connective tissue between the foot and one of the toes. When the big toe is involved, it is known as “turf toe” and the only cure is either completely staying off of it for a month or surgery. Belue has done neither. Saturday night will be a tough night for him to not be operating at 100% because the Rebels’ receivers are very big and very fast. Belue will not only be challenged in pass coverage, but he’ll also be trying to disengage from bigger and stronger men in order to make some tackles in the run game. It could be a long night if he’s not healthy. But, if he is healthy, he could make a huge difference in our secondary.
Adrian Hubbard/Denzell Devall/Ed Stinson – We list this trio because they will have the daunting task of containing the edges of the Alabama defense. When Ole Miss is clicking, Jeff Scott is scampering around the ends and getting out into the wide open spaces of the secondary. This little dude’s got jets so keeping him hemmed in the middle of the field is the key to victory. Scott burned Vandy and Texas with sweeps that ended up as 70+ yard touchdown runs so Hubbard, Devall and Stinson will have to find a way to not let him outside of containment.
Brandon Ivory/Darren Lake – Honestly, I struggled with this selection. I mean, you really could focus on anyone in the secondary and you’d have a pretty strong case for a player who will need to have a strong game. Landon Collins, Vinnie Sunseri and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will all need to play very well as they will be asked to stuff the running game AND play the deep passes. We also think Eddie Jackson may be a key player in the game, as well. But, our mantra this week has been stopping the run so that’s where we turn our focus. Stop the run and you stop Ole Miss. It’s just that simple. In order for CJ Mosley and Trey DePriest to be effective, they are going to need some help from our biggest boys in order to stop the interior running game of the Rebels. With Ole Miss attacking in so many directions, the linebackers are going to be asked to run laterally to the ball all night long. However, if Brandon Ivory and Darren Lake are not holding the point in the middle, then that will be one more thing our linebackers will have to worry with and this will limit their ability to be in hot pursuit. So, our defensive tackles will be required to stay gap sound and make sure that any interior running plays are negated before they can get to the second level.