Three Sheets to the Win against Tennessee

There are a few fascinating matchups this week against Tennesse.  Here are three each on offense and defense..

Offense

Chad Lindsay – He’s going up against his biggest challenge of his career.  Daniel McCullers is 6-8 and is listed at 352 lbs.  Um, sure he’s 352 lbs.  And I’m just a big boned 180 lbs, myself.  Alabama’s interior running game will have problems moving McCullers so watch Lindsay to see how they find a way to move Mt McCullers.

AJ McCarron – Tennessee has picked off 12 passes this season and is ranked third in passing efficiency defense.  They love to zone blitz and force quick throws into areas that they are expecting to see the throws.  AJ will have to have one of his best decision making days because Tennessee’s secondary is pretty good.

Blitz Pickups – Alabama has struggled to pick up blitzes and that was evident even against Arkansas.  How Alabama picks up the UT zone blitzes will be a big, big deal this week.  Tennessee has injured a couple of QBs this week so protecting AJ is priority #1.

Defense

Darren Lake – Lake is some big shoes to fill with Brandon Ivory missing this week.  On some plays, he can be dominant but on many others he can be rooted out of the middle at the point of attack.  Lake is going to have to step up this week and play with complete effort.

Cyrus Jones – Tennessee can threaten a defense with Marquez North (6-4, 215) and if they see North matched up on tiny Cyrus Jones, they will attack him early and often.  We last saw Jones flailing at the Texas A&M beast that is known as Mike Evans so we’ll have to see if Jones is up to the task this week.  Bradley Sylve is out with a high ankle sprain and Eddie Jackson appears to be in the dog house so all eyes will be on Jones this week.  And, if we lose Jones, it looks like Alabama’s favorite Caboose, John Fulton, will be forced into action.

Dee Liner – Rumor has it Liner will play this week and that makes sense.  The attrition across Alabama’s defensive line has been rough this year so look for the Tide to employ several four man fronts that allow their OLBs like Devall, Hubbard and Anderson to put their hand in the dirt.  Liner has the ability to be a wrecking ball and it appears he’ll be needed this week to supply some depth.

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W2W4 Against Tennessee

Tennessee comes into the game with a newfound belief in their football program and Butch Jones certainly has the Vols playing their best football in years.  But, the fact remains that the Vols still have a long way to go before they get their talent base back up to the elite levels in the SEC.

Alabama has beaten the Vols by 31 points the last three times they have played and Vegas likes the Tide to win today by 28 points so Vegas isn’t exactly buying into this new Tennessee success.  While the Vols are better, they still have their warts on offense and on defense.  Here’s what you need to watch for this week…

Alabama on Offense

Tennessee has given up more than 200 yards rushing to Florida, Georgia and South Carolina so look for Bama to dominate the Vols on the ground.  The Vols have a massive nose tackle in Daniel McCullers, who at 6-8, 360+ presents some problems up front.  Barrett Jones was interviewed by the Round Table this week and he called McCullers “nearly immovable” so Chad Lindsay has himself quite a challenge this week.  Also, Ryan Kelly is said to be 100% healthy once again so I’ll be curious to see if he’s used any this week.  While Kelly was a starter, he was pushed into the Tide’s backfield repeatedly so if you see #70 trot out there at center you should be on alert.

Tennessee ranks 10th against the pass (and 11th overall) on defense but, in a strange twist, they are actually third in defensive pass efficiency.  How is that possible?  Well, their DBs have snagged 12 picks this season which is second in the conference only to Missouri’s 14.  As a comparison, Alabama has only six picks on the season.  So, look for Alabama to have a ton of success on the ground and there will be opportunities thru the air, as well.  But, Tennessee loves to bring pressure and force early throws so you can look for a pick or two this week.

Predictions:

  • Alabama will rush for over 200 yards
  • Alabama will struggle to find offensive consistency this week, especially against the blitz
  • The backs will be a huge weapon out of the backfield
  • OJ Howard will show up once again with a big catch.  UT’s secondary clamps down on the wide receivers but on tape there are opportunities for the backs and tight ends.
  • Amari Cooper has been showing flashes of his former self so watch for him today.
  • AJ will be sacked at least twice this week – that’s a huge prediction because the line has protected him beautifully over the last few weeks.  The one area Bama’s line has struggled is against the blitz and Tennessee has some really cool overload blitz concepts which should befuddle the line.

Alabama on Defense

For those who want to put Alabama on upset alert this week, you should know that the Vols are going to have a horrific time trying to score this week.  In order to beat Alabama, you’d better have a dynamic quarterback who can find success against the Tide thru the air.  Vols QB Justin Worley isn’t even on the SEC’s top 15 quarterbacks in passing efficiency – folks, that’s bad.  Both of the Kentucky quarterbacks are better than Worley.  Yeesh.  So if you think the Vols will win this game then you aren’t seeing the same things I’m seeing.  Here’s what else to watch for on defense…

Predictions:

  • The Tennessee offensive line is easily the best in the conference.  No, really.  They’ll put four of these five guys into the NFL.  They’ll rush for over 120 yards.
  • With that being said, it will be imperative for Alabama’s front four to control the running game and they will try to do this without the superb efforts of Brandon Ivory, who is evidently going to serve some sort of suspension this week.  There will be tons of pressure on Darren Lake to hold the point.
  • With Ivory out, look for Alabama to use a ton of four man fronts, even in their base defense.  This gives Lake a break and allows for more depth to get rotated up front.  Rumor is Dee Liner will play today so be on the lookout for #52 to make his debut.
  • Also, look for Ed Stinson to move inside while Devall, Hubbard and Anderson are used as defensive ends.  Attrition of one form or another has now taken away tackles Darious Paige (medical), Dakota Ball (injury) Dalvin Tomlinson (injury), LaMichael Fanning (suspension?) and Brandon Ivory (suspension).
  • The rotation at corner has been focused on all year and this week brings about another question mark at the position.  Deion Belue is hurting but he’ll start today at one corner.  Bradley Sylve was playing very well but a high ankle sprain has sidelined him, clearing a spot for Cyrus Jones to start at the other corner.  Eddie Jackson has made his way into the dog house and he is missed.
  • Look for Tennessee to attack Cyrus Jones with Marquez North (6-4, 215), who has come on as a go to receiver for Worley.  This is a matchup nightmare and North will beat him deep at least once.
  • Tennessee will have more success that we want them to on the ground due to their strength up front.  They’ll be the first team to score a touchdown against the starters since forever.

Conclusion

This game sets up as a trap game for Alabama.  The bye week is on the horizon and then the LSU game that everyone has been looking forward to is just around the corner so the Tennessee game is likely an afterthought for many.  Tennessee believes, and that’s dangerous.  Alabama is due for a sub par performance and I think this week may be the week.  But, at the end of the day, Alabama is the better team and they’ll win a low scoring game this week.

Score:  Alabama 27       Tennessee 13

Anatomy of a Clearing Route and a Draw Play

Aside from the backside cuts, there were two other plays against the Razorbacks that caught my eye so we’ll take a look at them here.  On the first play, Alabama designed a play to isolate 5-star tight end OJ Howard on the Arkansas linebackers.  Howard is very big and very fast and is a match-up nightmare for anyone trying to defend him.  On this play, Alabama used three receivers to clear out the entire left side and then released Howard on a crossing route underneath.  He was so wide open he could have walked in.  Here’s a look at that play…

OJ1

 

Todd Blackledge did a nice job of diagramming the play so we’ll just use his handiwork.  Now, further out left is yet another wide receiver who Blackledge didn’t point out so that should make three yellow arrows moving from left to right.  Howard (circled) will move from right to left and the two Arkansas linebackers responsible for him will basically wet the bed.

OJ2

 

Above, you can see that Howard has cleared both of the Arkansas linebackers and is wide open.  Also, note the pristine pocket and sight line that AJ McCarron has here.  So, this easy pitch and catch was the result of the three pass routes that vacated the entire left side of the field.

OJ3

Did I mention the confusion on the part of the linebackers?  I don’t think he’s signalling touchdown here, do you?  You know it was a loooong night for the Arkansas defense.  Want more proof?  Here’s a quick look at a draw that made the Razorback middle linebacker look completely foolish.

Behold.  The simple draw play.  It’s a play that is in every single playbook of every single offense in existence.

draw1

 

Here, Arkansas is employing one single solitary linebacker to shut off the interior run.  At the snap, this linebacker flees to the left of the screen to provide pass coverage.  The problem for this guy is that the play is a RUN!

draw2

 

As you can see above, Yeldon has just taken the handoff.  Notice the linebacker circled in yellow – he has no clue what’s going on at all.  Now, scan the field working from the player circled and working back to the right of the screen.  See all the green grass?  That’s what Yeldon saw, as well.  Folks, this is pitiful defense on behalf of Arkansas.  Yeldon picked up a nice block from Amari Cooper and then he strolled into the end zone untouched.

Alabama was very good against Arkansas but, as you can see, Arkansas was very bad.