With one day standing in between now and the Ole Miss-Alabama game, Chris Dodson of Bama Hammer was gracious enough to give me some insight into their football team and the matchup tomorrow in Tuscaloosa.
Michael Quirk: Alabama is fourth in the nation in takeaways. How has the defense been able to do that and what should Ole Miss expect on Saturday as it pertains to forcing turnovers?
Chris Dodson: Alabama is an opportunistic team. Their defense will force turnovers and the offense will capitalize on them. The Ole Miss offense has to take care of the ball if they want to have success against this Alabama D. This Alabama defense, though it’s definately lost some depth from losing players to the NFL, is still as stout, if not, more so than it was last year, mainly thanks to players like CJ Mosley, who has 22 tackles in 4 games, and Ed Stinson, who is not getting a lot of attention, even though he leads the team in tackles for loss with 5.
MQ: Ole Miss has struggled this year against the pass, how do you think Nick Saban will try to attack the Rebel defense?
CD: It’s clear Nick Saban want to give QB AJ McCarron more opportunities to air it out. At times, however, I’ve felt like McCarron has had trouble getting started and lacking in confidence early in the game. The good news for Ole Miss is that Alabama still plays a heavy run style of play and won’t pass it as often as they go to the ground game. But if AJ McCarron does get to pass the ball, the Alabama coach staff is going to try to call plays that will be caught between 5 and 15 yards mostly, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Saban tried to give him a chance to toss the long ball 40-50 yards downfield. So, Ole Miss is going to have to get better at coverage if they want success defending the passing game.
MQ: What Alabama offensive player should Ole Miss key in on?
CD: I think they need to hone in on hone in on RB TJ Yeldon when he’s got the ball. He’ll get the ball occasionally with RB Eddie Lacy, but him playing backup for Lacy shouldn’t fool anybody. The difference between the two is that Lacy is more a power runner, similar to Trent Richardson, but TJ Yeldon is more shifty and is extremely patient in letting the holes open. This kid surprized everybody how well he played against Michigan in the opener and, even though he hasn’t had a game like that since, he is just as dynamic and just as explosive. If Ole Miss doesn’t contain him, they are going to be giving up some big yards on the ground game.
MQ: How much of a drop off in the running game do you feel with Trent Richardson gone?
CD: It terms of big plays, I think there is a slight drop off. You haven’t seen as many big runs by Alabama this season as you did see last year. The big play factor has died down a bit. But in terms of talent, from top to bottom, there is no drop off. 6 runningbacks got a snap during the FAU game last week and all of them have fantastic talent. I don’t know what Nick Saban does to get some of the best runningbacks in his recruiting classes, but it just seems like Alabama is just reloading at the RB position year in, year out.
MQ: If there is any vulnerable on either side of the ball, what is it?
CD: Before the season started, a lot of people were buying in to the Alabama offensive line. To me, they have underwhelmed. They have given up 11 sacks, 6 of them against Western Kentucky. I think too much pressure is getting to McCarron and that’s mostly because the O-Line isn’t doing a great job protecting the QB during pass situations. Even the run game, I feel, could be better if the blocking was improved.
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