Tide defense replaces seven starters, remains stout

By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

The fast-paced style of offense is something Ole Miss fans haven’t seen from their team before, but players for No. 1 Alabama saw it last week.
And they believe that will help them be successful against the Rebels on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa.
Florida Atlantic runs a style similar to the Ole Miss offense as Rebels coach Hugh Freeze emphasizes tempo and quick snap counts.
“We practiced on that this past week because they’re going to be getting to the line fast and checking and things like that, so it’s something that we’re starting to get accustomed to,” Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley said.
Though Florida Atlantic rushed for 76 yards, the most allowed by Alabama this season, the Owls’ total offense was just 110 yards, the least allowed by the Crimson Tide.
An Alabama defense that replaced seven starters has experienced no drop-off, ranking in the top 10 nationally in every statistical category.
The Crimson Tide (4-0, 1-0 SEC) is sixth against the run and fifth in pass efficiency defense.
Ole Miss (3-1) leads the SEC and ranks 11th nationally in rushing (259.8 ypg), but most of the Rebels’ early game weren’t against top-flight defenses.
UTEP ranks No. 103 in rushing defense, Tulane No. 118.
The Rebels can draw some confidence from the Texas game in which they rushed for 170 yards against a top 40 defense.
‘Really, really sound’
“Texas wanted to blitz you more and give you different looks,” Ole Miss offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. “These guys will give you different looks, but they’re just never out of a gap. The defensive backs never let anybody go free. They’re just really, really sound.”
In what passes for passing success against Alabama, Michigan and Western Kentucky have had the most luck.
Michigan scored on a 71-yard play and finished with 200 passing yards on only 11 completions. Western Kentucky was 21 for 30 passing for 178 yards.
Alabama picked off Michigan three times, Western Kentucky once.
The Rebels had 399 yards and 31 points against Texas. Whether attacking with the SEC’s leading run game or through the air, Werner sees no soft spots from the Alabama defense.
“I’ve done this a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of good defenses, and there’s usually something you think you can attack like, ‘Hey if we get in this formation they’re unsound with this.’ I just don’t see it with them,” he said. “You have to work hard to get 4 yards, and it shows in their stats. Look at their stats the last three or four years. They just don’t give up 400-yard games.”
In fact, under Nick Saban the Crimson Tide has held opponents to fewer than 300 yards 43 times. That’s 60.6 percent of the games he’s coached.
Alabama had five forced fumbles in its 52-0 romp against Arkansas.
Mosley leads the team with 29 tackles and has shown up in most of the big-play categories.
He says communication is the key for continued success this week.
“I’m pretty sure they’re going to get to the ball quick and try to get the defense where they can take advantage of us,” he said. “We just have to be fast and communicate and just get to the ball and play physical like we always do. It just comes back to staying consistent no matter who we play.”
parrish.alford@journalinc.com