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Hugh Freeze hopes his pass defense will be ready for Alabama

A short week prepping for a triple-option offense didn’t leave much time to fix problems after FSU. Freeze talked about it during his Monday presser.

Mississippi v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Every week, we'll be sorting through Hugh Freeze's presser to bring you only the notable information and explain why it matters. No more scrolling through long transcripts or sitting through a 20-minute video replay filled with 95 percent coach speak. We've already done that for you.

Rommel Mageo hasn’t locked up the starting middle linebacker job just yet.

A few days after starting over DeMarquis Gates at the Mike spot and leading the team with eight tackles against Wofford, the grad transfer from Oregon State was listed on top of the weekly depth chart update heading into the Bama game. That doesn’t necessarily mean that’ll be the case on Saturday.

“I keep saying that but last week is not a good judge of, how he's going to fit the zone and the power, because we didn't see it,” Freeze said on Monday. “I love the kid and I like the way he prepares, but it's just too early to tell.”

Megeo, a multi-year starter in Corvallis who led the Beavers in tackles last season, was expected to immediately fill C.J. Johnson’s spot in the middle, but the learning curve for Dave Wommack’s 4-2-5 defensive scheme has delayed things. It does make since that this Saturday would be the game that we see the coaches really push Mageo into the role. Here’s what I wrote before the season:

At 211 pounds, Gates is also a bit undersized, which is one reason the coaches would prefer to have the 233-pound Mageo manning the middle. That shouldn’t necessarily be a problem against a Florida State zone blocking scheme that relies on speed and angles more so than brute-force frontal assault, but that changes in Week 3 when Bama comes to town. I’d guess that Freeze has Sept. 17 circled as his goal for having Mageo moved into a starting role.

Mageo, for his part, is ready to roll: when asked to explain how he intends to “scare” freshman QB Jalen Hurts, Mageo said, “just hit him hard.”

Victor Evans is going through concussion protocol.

The freshman defensive end got banged up against Wofford, but Freeze said he’s “already passed his test” and “should be fine,” though the medical staff hasn’t yet reached a final determination. That’s some refreshingly positive injury news for a team that’s already had a high casualty rate. Freshman wideout D.K. Metcalf—who’d scored two touchdowns in his first two games—broke his foot on Saturday and will likely sit for the rest of the season with a medical redshirt. If he’s indeed shelved, that’s three season-ending injuries in the span of two games.

The coaches didn’t have much time to work on the pass defense last week.

After the inexperienced secondary allowed Deondre Francois to shred them with 8.1 yards per attempt in the opener, there’s no doubt that the coaches want to devote major practice time to shoring up the pass D—indeed, Freeze talked in detail last week about the technique issues he saw in Orlando. The problem is, the short week and the need to prep for Wofford’s triple-option offense didn’t leave any time for it.

Here’s Freeze on Monday:

Week 1, we didn’t handle it really well. We have been paying attention to it, starting yesterday. We couldn’t last week because we had two days to get ready for the wishbone and there weren’t a lot of things we could do. I will be confident by the time our game comes with our plans and hope that we’ve done a good job of communicating the proper techniques to try to defend their passing game.

Bama obviously isn’t a pass-happy team, but Lane Kiffin loves taking vertical shots and Hurts hit bombs of 39 and 71 yards against USC.

“They're going to be tested this week,” Freeze said of his young safeties. “With all the run defense and all the shot plays, they'll be tested."

Freeze said he doesn’t plan on running the ole Tip Six play again [WINK EMOJI]

One thing I'll say is [Chad Kelly] knows he shouldn't have done that, but in his thinking he knew that Laquon [Treadwell] was there and that he'd have a chance to fight for it — and he knew Laquon would. So that's Chad's reasoning. That has a little merit. I'm not crazy about wildly doing that again, but you need a few breaks when you're playing great teams... You need one of those ball bounces to your way every now and then. But I'd just as soon us not do that again.

Smart move, coach. Bait Saban into thinking you’ve removed that totally-by-design call from your play book, then unleash it midway through the second quarter. Savvy stuff, there.