Two-minute drill: Ole Miss vs. Alabama
Throughout the season, The Rebel Walk’s Joel Jackson will bring you our “Two-Minute Drill,” a quick weekly look at the Rebels’ upcoming opponents through the eyes of the beat writers who cover them. This Saturday, September 17, Ole Miss plays No. 1 Alabama in Oxford. This week, we visit with Stephen M. Smith, senior analyst for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Alabama is coming off of a national championship season. In 2015 Alabama once again “rolled” through its schedule with virtually no hiccups to win the SEC Championship, dispatched a very good Michigan State team in the playoffs, then went down to the wire with a tough Clemson team. I did say “virtually no hiccups” though, as Ole Miss was the Crimson Tide’s lone defeat last year.
To go through the ins-and-outs of this year’s Tide team, we asked Stephen M. Smith some important questions about the team the Rebels face Saturday.
The Rebel Walk: Every year, Alabama loses a ton of players to the NFL, but yet they simply reload. This year, long time defensive coordinator Kirby Smart left for Georgia. How much do you think this will impact the defense?
Stephen Smith: Kirby Smart’s departure will have an effect on the defense, being that he was intense and detail-oriented with the schemes; however, the return of Jeremy Pruitt brings fresh life and a new perspective to Alabama. He is going to dial up more blitz packages and create pressure from every angle possible. Players have already warmed up to his laid back, yet hands on style. Part of Pruitt’s return is getting the secondary to be elite and I think he does that this season.
The Rebel Walk: What can you tell us about Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts?
Stephen Smith: Hurts is a true freshman who came in, pushed everyone and earned the starting nod. Nick Saban has never started a true freshman, but he’s also never had one with this skill set (dual-threat). Hurts brings a dynamic that has burned Alabama a lot under Saban and something that can generate a lot of problems for defensive coordinators.
The Rebel Walk: Who has stepped up in the Alabama backfield?
Stephen Smith: The Tide has a solid one, two punch with Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris. Both guys are sophomores who were five-star prospects upon enrolling at Alabama. Scarbrough (6-foot-2, 228 pounds) is bigger than last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Derrick Henry. Alabama needs the sophomore to stay healthy. He endured two serious knee issues in high school. Harris (5-foot-11, 214 pounds) has developed the patience to be Alabama’s No. 1 back and he’s not to be overlooked. Alabama also has two true freshmen in B.J. Emmons and Joshua Jacobs, with Emmons being the one likely to get time this season.
NOTE: Thus far this season, Harris is averaging 9.1 yards per carry.
The Rebel Walk: Jonathan Allen gets a lot of the headlines on the defensive line but talk about some of the other guys on the line.
Stephen Smith: Da’Shawn Hand enters this season as a hot commodity at defensive end. The junior totaled 4 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss in 2015. Senior defensive tackle/end Dalvin Tomlinson finished with 34 total tackles, while leading the D-Line in pass breakups (six) last season. He also totaled four quarterback hurries. Da’Ron Payne is in for a huge sophomore year, after totaling 13 tackles as a freshman in 2015. The Tide also has Raekwon Davis (6-foot-8), Quinnen Williams, Jamar King, O.J. Smith, Dakota Ball and Johnny Dwight to build into the rotation.
Ole Miss and Alabama will face off at 2:30 p.m. (CT) on Saturday September, 17 in Oxford at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The game will be televised by CBS Sports.