Alabama’s defense is obsessed with taking away the opposing offense’s ability to run the dang ball. Because they’re so dedicated to this, they usually commit five to seven defenders within five yards of the line of scrimmage, which means receivers often find themselves in individual matchups.
For Ole Miss fans, this falls in the category of THINGS WE LIKE TO HEAR. A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, DaMarkus Lodge, and others getting single coverage? I will subscribe to this podcast.
When you also consider that the Alabama secondary is replacing its top six guys from last year, Ole Miss could have an advantage in individual battles. But to capitalize on a said potential advantage, it’s up to the offensive line to handle Alabama’s pass rush and give Jordan Ta’amu enough time to drop that ish right in the receiving corps’ breadbaskets.
No matter how good your quarterback is, if you can’t keep him vertical, you’re dead.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the things the Alabama pass rush has done in this young season. Normally, I would watch all quarters and games, but Alabama so sufficiently destroyed Louisville and Arkansas State that watching anything past the first quarter against Louisville was a waste of time.
Again, I cannot stress enough that everything you’re about to see was thrown out in the first quarter of a game Alabama most certainly knew they were going to dominate. LET THE IMPENDING DOOM WASH OVER YOU.
Early in the first quarter, Alabama has seven potential rushers around the line of scrimmage, which is not a new development.
The challenge is always in identifying who is coming after the quarterback and who is dropping into coverage. They’re usually going to send four or five in the pass rush, but they’ll always come from different positions.
Here we see the four down linemen (yes, I know one is standing up) rush and three others drop. However, the two interior linemen twist, which is a thing Alabama loves and Ole Miss had MANY A PROBLEM WITH LAST YEAR.
Fortunately for Louisville, the two twisting defensive linemen run in to each other, creating a pile of fat guys, and the tackles are able to handle the edge rushers.
Now we have a scenario in which Alabama places nine guys in a position to rush the quarterback. If you’re a lineman, you know all nine aren’t rushing, but you have eyeballs on multiple dudes, which places a great deal of importance on quickly identifying who is rushing and who isn’t.
Despite the threat of multiple rushers, Alabama sends four (and uses another twist), with the majority of the nine dropping into coverage.
Surprisingly, Louisville blocks it well, but ALAS, the running back you see on the left of the screenshot drops the pass on a wheel route, which is a violation of the wheel route’s terms of service.
While showing aggressive fronts, Alabama will also bail into coverage. Here we see six defenders with the potential to attack the offensive line.
In the end, probably because of down and distance, three of them bail, and Alabama goes with a conservative three-man rush, dropping eight defenders into coverage.
On Louisville’s next possession, we see an example of how they read RPOs. The line of scrimmage is crowded with seven defenders, but their reaction to the quarterback/running back exchange is interesting.
Three players rush without hesitation, but a fourth reads whether the ball was handed off or the quarterback is passing (linebackers/defensive backs hold until they know it’s a pass or run).
The dilemma is solved and rushing occurs.
There are times when the Tide doesn’t even need to show strength like the Tide. BEHOLD, five defenders in the box.
It seems conservative, but we are gifted the first example of Alabama sending a rusher from deep.
Four rushers against five offensive linemen seems like no problem for Louisville, right? NOT QUITE, FRIENDS.
Everything we’ve seen so far hasn’t been totally confusing, but Alabama is about to change all of that. Here we have seven defenders in a position to attack.
You can wager your life savings that only four will attack, but it’s a question of which four. Here’s our first example of a defensive back coming off the edge from the boundary while a defensive end/linebacker on the field side drops into coverage.
Louisville actually called a screen play here (note: not my screenplay for Point Break 3), which negated Alabama’s rush, but I’m bringing it up because they will rush from every position.
Finally, we enter the exotic portion of this film review. No, we won’t be visiting a massage parlor, but we shall see Alabama unloading hell on an offensive line.
Per the usual, six defenders in positions that would allow them to attack.
The two interior linemen will crash to their right, and the two linebackers will perform a double A-gap blitz, meaning they charge through the spaces between the center and the two guards. Oh, and just for fun, the defensive end/linebacker standing over the tight end on the right side of the formation will loop behind the double A-gap blitz.
Let’s see how all of that turned out for Louisville.
Ole Miss’ offensive line is in for challenges on challenges on Saturday, including establishing a running game that provides some production. But the Rebels’ offensive moneymaker is wide receivers dominating defensive backs and Ta’amu putting the ball where it needs to be. If the offensive line can’t give our handsome Hawaiian son enough time to make the magic happen, then we can go ahead and cash that Alabama -20 ticket.