As Alabama prepares for their final walk thru before the Florida game, there are still a few questions that will need to be answered. First, has Nick Saban settled on a quarterback? Second, has the starting right guard been identified? Third, has the defense figured out who their starting corners are going to be? And last, has Nick Saban figured out a way to defend the hurry up offenses. Believe it or not, the Southern Miss game should shed some light on many or all of these things! Here’s what to watch for against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles…
Alabama on Offense
Our first film review of an opponent this season revealed that Southern Miss’ defense isn’t quite as bad as we initially thought. Their front four is actually pretty decent and their short yardage play was pretty stellar against the bigger, badder Bulldogs from Mississippi State so this may not be the total walk over that most are predicting. Where the Eagles got plucked was thru the air, as their 4-2-5 defense seemed to expose three or four defenders who are not adept at pass coverage. In particular, the seams were wide open throughout the night so if you are a betting man then you might want to take the over on whatever the number of catches OJ Howard is supposed to have. As the night wore on the Eagles’ defense wore down because the Southern Miss offense was atrocious and left their defense out to dry all night long. But, when they were fresh, their line defended the middle well but the flanks and the secondary were exposed as they seem to lack the athleticism to cover that territory.
Oh Captain My Captain: All you Mrs Doubtfire’s will need to come to grips quickly that Blake Sims is going to be the guy this season – he just is. He’s clearly better than Coker is right now and unless something drastic changes in this game, you’ll see Sims go wire to wire against Florida. So, if you are in the Coker camp, know that this will be his last opportunity to win the job. I expect things to go exactly as they did last week with Sims looking far more polished than Coker and locking down the job after this game.
Whatchu Gonna Do With That Big Fat But: But Sims can’t throw the ball! If my film study time was accurate, Sims is going to have to throw the football Saturday night so we should be able to gather some more data on this against the Eagles. Remember, quick throws like “Now” screens, hitches, curls and slants to the outside are in Sims’ wheelhouse. Posts, crossers, deep corners and anything downfield with lateral movement are the routes that pose the most problems.
Shine Like a Diamond: Think about what the scenario would have to look like that allows Coker to win the job. At this point I think he’d have to go 13 out of 15 for 250 yards and four TDs or something nutty like that because the gap between him and Sims is pretty wide.
99 Problems But a Hitch Ain’t One: I heard an interesting theory on the “Now” passes out wide to the receivers. As teams stack the box against the Bama running game (putting 8 defenders in the box) then these little quick passes out wide to the receivers can be deadly. Against the slow footed “Burrowing Owls”, one block allowed sprinters like Cooper and Drake to outrace the pursuit coming from inside the box. The theory says that stretching the field laterally can be just as effective as vertically so look for these throws to continue to be a key part of the offense.
The Fore-Shadow Knows: Coach Saban continues to mention juco offensive line transfer Dominick Jackson’s strength, power and agility as being the best on the team. The charge of Saban has always been to get the best five offensive linemen on the field so pay attention this week and see if #76 creeps into the lineup with the first team. I don’t think they are happy with Taylor and Brown has been a bust so something tells me that we may see a Jackson with this Five.
He’s a Real Nowhere Man: This is the week we see OJ Howard. Book it.
- Look for the edges to be brutalized with Yeldon, Henry and Drake bouncing to the outside when the middle is stuffed.
- Short yardage will likely be a bit of a struggle this week so I’m really looking forward to seeing us try to convert some 3rd and 1 and 4th and 1 opportunities to see how we stack up. Converting these chances will be huge over the next few games.
- I love to watch Amari Cooper play.
- I love to watch Derek Henry run.
- I love to see how fast Kenyan Drake is compared to everyone else.
- I only get 7 opportunities to see these guys play at home so I’m excited to see them tomorrow.
- More Tyren Jones, please.
Alabama on Defense
This will be a short segment because Southern Miss is really anemic on offense. Their QB is former Spain Park star Nick Mullens and, when given time, he can make the short to intermediate throw accurately. The problem for Nick is that Southern Miss appears to have the worst offensive line I’ve ever seen on film. Additionally, the Eagles have very little at the skill positions so they don’t really threaten you much as a defense. However, they do run the HUNH offense so we’ll get to see a few more opportunities to see how Saban and Smart are defending this offense.
Line Dancing: Look for massive substituting along the d-line whenever possible. It seems the Bama staff has embraced the hockey line change as we’ve seen subs flying off the sidelines thus far. This is awesome because 1) we go 10 deep at DL 2) they are all talented 3) they stay fresh 4) we get to see Rashaan Evans and Da’Shawn Hand more. Oh, and continue to watch for Tim Williams (#56) in pass rush situations. He continues to be a fave…
You Can’t Hide Your Ryan Eyes: Ryan Anderson literally popped off the screen last week. He, too, is a fave so I’m hoping to see him continue to earn opportunities to maul quarterbacks.
L-B Somebody: After two games into the season, I don’t feel that we’ve gotten much production from the linebacking corps. True, Trey DePriest was out against WVU and he’s coming off of a knee injury but I really haven’t seen much from him, Ragland or anyone else at the position. To me, they’ve seemed slow to react, slow to disengage from blockers and are exposed in pass coverage. Saturday, Southern Miss is going to dink and dunk and screen and draw all day long in an effort to attack the second level of the defense so I’m looking for someone at the linebacker position to step up and be somebody on Saturday. I continue to hear that Dillon Lee will appear on nickel and dime sets and I continue to tell you he’s the most athletic LB Alabama has. Will Saturday be the day he overtakes everyone at the LB postion? Or, will the starters stake a claim to the position?
Love Lockdown: Eddie Jackson will be starting for the second week in a row and we’ll see if he can continue to keep the wide receiver love locked down. He’s less than six months removed from an ACL injury (seriously, how amazing is that) so we’ll see how he bounces back from his first serious contact against FAU. At the other corner, we’ll have to keep an eye on Cyrus Jones to see how he bounces back, as well. I look for Tony Brown and Maurice Smith to come into the game early and get an opportunity to show the coaches what they can do.
Pressure: Southern Miss’ line is atrocious. I look for Alabama’s front to absolutely dominate the game and make Nick Mullens wish he played another position. Jonathan Allen and DJ Pettway have been particularly impressive thus far so I look for them to each get a sack.
- This will be a great opportunity to see how the LBs do in coverage as they will be attacked throughout the game.
- Last week Alabama blitzed more than I’d seen in a long time and I assume it will continue this week.
- When I say blitz, I mean the safeties and corners were being used even more than the LBs.
- I expect another shutout because of the porous offensive line
I think the running game won’t quite be the steamroller that it’s been so far and I do think Blake Sims will be called upon to loosen things up with the pass. Thus far, he hasn’t given any indication that he will not be able to step up to this challenge and, if he does step up, then he will be your 2014 quarterback. For Jake Coker to win the job, Sims will have to make some horrific decisions while Coker will have to look like some gorgeous combination of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Gisele. I do think OJ Howard will see some catches this week and I think the defense pitches another shutout (unless the offense gift wraps some points) and I think we’ll all still be wondering how all of this is going to come together when we take on Florida.
Final Score: Alabama 34 Southern Miss 0
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