13 October 2008
Is it just me, or did that off week feel like it lasted about a month? As a general rule Monday sucks, but when it ushers in a game week I can tolerate it. After three days off the Tide hit the practice field in shells today in preparation for the Ole Miss Rebels. Here's what you need to know:
The injury situation is great. All of the guys who took a little time off last week are back - most notably Andre Smith. By this point in the season everyone is banged up, and everyone is dealing with some sort of nagging injury. Whether by design or by luck, the off week came at exactly the right time for the Tide, and everyone appears to be rested and ready to go for the second half of the season.
Ole Miss hasn't been particularly good at stopping the run (112.67 yards allowed per game), but they've been downright terrible against the pass. They are currently ranked 89th in passing yards allowed per game at 228.83 yards per game. They are even worse at defensive efficiency, which takes into account touchdowns allowed and interceptions forced, ranking 96th in the country.
With that in mind there was heavy work on attacking the Rebels secondary. With Mike McCoy and Earl Alexander both going at full speed the receiver corps is working to have a better game than we saw against Kentucky. Given the success that the Wildcats had with man-press coverage, a lot of work is being done getting out of jams at the line of scrimmage, and running defensive backs off of the route.
The one part of passing defense that the Rebels do have success in is pass rush. They average just over two sacks a game, with end Greg Hardy doing most of the damage. Having Andre Smith back should help with that, but Hardy will spend most of his time opposite Drew Davis. True freshman Michael Williams began the task of simulating Hardy on the scout team last Friday, and that continued again today. Davis is getting a crash course on the variety of speed rushes that Hardy employs. Fortunately he has the help of offensive line coach Joe Pendry as well as current starting left guard Mike Johnson, who lined up at right tackle against Hardy last season. And in case you don't remember, things didn't go so well for Johnson in that game.
For running back Glen Coffee the goal for the week (last week as well) is hanging on to the football. All of the backs spent a good deal of time working on drills to avoid fumbling. The Rebels took advantage of a number of fumbles by Florida in their road upset of the Gators. If Bama hangs on to the ball, they should be able to move the ball.
Defensively the Tide is having to work to stop two different "quarterbacks." Jevon Snead is a real talent, and the threat of his arm should keep Bama in the nickel defense for most of the day. But just when you start to figure Snead out, the Rebels will line up Dexter McCluster at QB in the "Wild Rebel" formation. Bama did a great job of defending this formation against Arkansas and Darren McFadden last season, and that experience should help in this game - as well as next week when Tennessee lines up Gerald Jones in their "G-Gun" fortmation.
The Tide will be back in full pads tomorrow as the game plan for the week becomes more specific. We'll have a report here.