Jan 2, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide dance team performs before kickoff of a game against the Oklahoma Sooners at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent Sideline Q&A (2014 SEC Football Preview) - Bama Hammer

During the 2014 preseason to the college football season, Ole Hotty Toddy is prepared to bring Ole Miss fans the ultimate coverage preview to the 2014 season. We will be reaching out to fellow FanSided writers of other SEC schools and writers from other networks and publishers of other SEC schools to give us their in depth look of their team with what we call Opponent Sideline Q&A.

Jan 7, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide cheerleaders perform on the sidelines during the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the 2013 BCS Championship game at Sun Life Stadium. Alabama won 42-14. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

In today’s Opponent Sideline Q&A, Tony Breland of FanSided’s Alabama Crimson Tide site – BamaHammer.com, was nice enough to share with us his take on Alabama coming into the 2014 college football season. You can follow Tony Breland on Twitter @Bama-Hammer. Below is our sit-down interview with Breland about the Crimson Tide in 2014.

Ole Hotty Toddy – Last season, Alabama fell (literally) one second short of possibly being in the Nation Title Game. They then went on to lose the Sugar Bowl to SEC trash talker Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners. What is the current morale of Bama fans coming into the 2014 season?

Bama Hammer - Alabama fans are excited. Most experts pick the Tide to make the 4-team playoff, and the schedule looks very favorable. The question mark at quarterback will be resolved, and Alabama is loaded with talent at almost every position. Last season was a big letdown, make no mistake. But fans think the team learned a lesson about complacency in the face of success, and will bounce back in a big way this season.

OHT – It didn’t seem Bama fans were all to thrilled that Lane Kiffin was coming to Tuscaloosa as the team’s new offensive coordinator. Have perceptions changed? What is Kiffin bringing differently to the table?

BH - It’s been a tough pill for some Alabama fans to swallow that a former Tennessee coach is now their OC. But Kiffin, for all his flaws, is a great offensive mind, and maybe stepping out of the limelight (and away from the microphone) will do the trick. As far as what he brings to the table, Kiffin will run a version of the pro set Saban prefers, but will likely make better use of the tight ends, and use the mobility of his quarterbacks to throw some different wrinkles at defenses. All told, it looks like a good fit.

OHT – Last year, Alabama shutout Ole Miss with that very tough Crimson Tide defense. Are we going to be expecting the same this year? Tell us about some newcomers that could make an impact on defense.

BH - Defense is always going to be emphasized under Nick Saban and this year will be no different. This year we have to replace C.J. Mosley and Vinnie Sunseri, two leaders of the defense. Right now, Reggie Ragland and Reuben Foster are competing for that job in the middle, and Landon Collins has really become a leader in the secondary. Despite the losses, Alabama has stockpiled talent, and there should be little dropoff from last season.

OHT – Nick Saban’s weakness has been noted to be going up against hurry up offensives. Has he figured out a way to stop face pace offenses?

BH - One way to slow down the hurry-up, no-huddle offense is to enforce the rules. There’s no reason refs should run to spot the ball, or allow the illegal motion that Auburn uses to confuse defenses. But with that said, Saban appears to have been recruiting faster, smaller, more athletic defenders, as opposed to the man-mountains he has pursued in the past. I think it’s a sign he is aware that until defenses learn to stop the HUNH, more offenses will employ it.

OHT – We know Alabama is searching for a new starting quarterback to replace AJ McCarron. Is it going to be Jacob Coker or someone else? Is this position a concern for Bama going into the 2014 season?

BH - Jacob Coker has certainly been crowned the starter by the fans and media, but until we see them in a game situation, we won’t know for sure. Blake Sims has worked hard to improve and get ready for the season. I have said all along that I fully expect him to take the first snap from center against West Virginia, and to share the job with Coker for at least one game. After that, who knows.

OHT – Any concerns for this year’s matchup between Ole Miss and Alabama or are you expecting this year to be 11 straight?

BH - Hugh Freeze is doing some interesting things across the state line. He’s recruited well, and has seized control of Mississippi football. I expect Ole Miss will give Alabama fits for the forseeable future, but frankly, the talent gap is too wide for Rebel fans to expect more than a near upset.


OHT – Do you believe deciphering offensive plays is a rich tradition at Alabama?

BH - Among fans? Certainly. We all think we know football better than the coaches. But Alabama has always been a defense-first team, and that’s quite the way we like it. Our most successful coaches have shared the philosophy that if the other team can’t score, they have a hard time beating you.

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