To think that just a few years ago Ole Miss had a defense that rivaled Alabama’s. Sure they paid for them, but they had them none the less. Ole Miss really should have gotten the death penalty or something close to it for the level of cheating they were doing but the NCAA simply has no backbone for this sort of thing so they slapped them with a few scholarship losses and moved on. Ole Miss apparently responded by putting what recruits they could get (without paying for them) on offense and left the defense with what was left. The end result was probably the worst defense I can remember Alabama ever facing. With the starters in there I believe they could have scored a hundred if they wanted to. Saban subbed Hurts in before halftime. Since they sucked this bad I don’t know that we can tell much accept that offense is in sync.
Defensively I felt like the day was a success. Ole Miss still has NFL level receivers, a very good offensive line and a good quarterback. After giving up a touchdown on the first play they went on to put a death grip on them that they never escaped from. Transfer former LSU defensive back Saivion Smith was the victim of that lone touchdown. Saban answered comically in the halftime interview when questioned about that play said “We put another guy there”. That other guy is freshman Patrick Surtain II. Surtain has been impressing all camp and is starting to close in on a starting roll. Pretty impressive for any true freshman in this defense. Smith is by no means finished as he may end up moving to another spot, possibly the star. Ultimately it could be some other guy who ends up sitting due to the increased playing time of Surtain. Overall the secondary had a great day. Trevon Diggs who has fought for three seasons to win a starting job had his best day as a player knocking down two sure touchdowns with his long reach. Thompson continues to torment quarterbacks with his range and Xavier McKinney is starting to show impact. The starters here are improving quickly but there is still very little depth.
The inside linebackers didn’t have much challenge from the Ole Miss running game but their run game never got much traction so that has to be a win.
The defensive line and outside linebackers had their best day yet getting mounting pressure on the Ole Miss quarterback early and often. Nose guard Quinnen Williams continues to confound centers and he whipped a good one against Ole Miss racking up 6 tackles, one for a loss and a QB hurry. Outside linebacker Christian Miller had his best day in a Tide uniform with 5 tackles with 2.5 for a loss and 2.5 sacks. Once the game got out of hand a lot of backups got some significant time. According to Jess N the Tidefans website editor backup linebacker Markail Benton is improving which is an important sign should one of the inside guys get hurt. Alabama may be further behind at backup outside linebacker but Senior James Mosley is still around and is a solid if unspectacular player. Freshman Cameron Latu and Eyabi Anoma are still too tentative. Hopefully that will change sometime during the season.
Alabama took advantage of the new redshirt rule and played true freshman Emil Ekiyor at Center. He would have likely not gotten those reps as a third stringer had the rule not been changed. I see this as nothing but a positive for the players. You can’t replace live fire experience to let you know where you need to be. Mac Jones also got his first real SEC experience and it was a rude welcome to the league. He took some titanic hits from some frustrated and still playing hard Ole Miss defenders in the fourth quarter. His one completion was a nice toss though. The speed of the game is still a problem for him. Brian Robinson had a similar problem playing behind the backup offensive line. He got more carries than the starters but didn’t see squat for daylight. Freshman defensive lineman Stephon Wynn Jr also got his first action after missing all of fall camp with a leg injury. Alabama is so young on the DL that every young player needs reps because we may end up having to play them.
Alabama’s first three opponent’s were not very good. Texas A&M is nothing like that. They have solid talent and an experienced coaching staff. This week will tell us much more about where we actually are than the first three. The Aggies have the 5th best offense by yardage in the country and will definitely push our defense. Their defense gives up about the same yardage as Auburn so they are no slouch there either. They are a well balanced team so this will be a solid test.
Oh, and Auburn lost, It was pretty much a perfect weekend.