By Hunter Ford

Alabama coach Nick Saban said Alabama needs to “push the pocket” to control Mississippi State’s mobile quarterback Dak Prescott.

Prescott leads the number one ranked Bulldogs into Tuscaloosa to face the Tide Saturday in a crucial matchup which will have significant implications for the SEC championship and College Football Playoff.

Saban said Alabama needs to stick with its fundamental defensive philosophy.  It needs to pressure Prescott without losing containment or leaving receivers uncovered.

“The question is, ‘Do you do what you do?  Or, do you do something different to keep the quarterback from running; then you don’t get anybody covered?’” Saban asked.

Saban compared the defensive strategy to a baseball pitcher “mixing up” pitches.  He said Alabama will attempt to mix up defensive schemes, “so the quarterback doesn’t know what’s happening.”

Sacks should not be the number one priority for the defensive line.   “Controlling the pass rush lanes and pushing the pocket” are the number one goals, according to Saban.

Prescott will be targeting Bulldog receiver De ‘Runnyan Wilson, a product of Alabama’s Wenonah High School.

Saban said Wilson uses his size really well and has good hands.  “I’m very, very impressed,” Saban said.

Alabama backup quarterback Cooper Bateman has been the scout team quarterback imitating Prescott.  Saban said Bateman has the mobility and athletic prowess to ready the Tide for Prescott’s visit.

Alabama punter J.K. Scott has helped Alabama “flip the field” in crucial situations.  Saban said Scott maintains his consistency by having a good work ethic.

“He is really dedicated and has a routine he stays in,” Saban said.  Saban said he allows Scott to maintain his own routine of stretching, strength and practice that Scott believes is the best to keep him performing well.

Saban cautioned that “Sometimes good enough is good enough,” alluding to Scott’s consistency.

“If you’re getting 50-55 yard kicks with hang time, that’s good enough, but (Scott) always wants to do better,” Saban said.

Running back T.J. Yeldon and offensive lineman Cam Robinson both have been practicing and doing well this week, according to Saban.

Saban said the Tide has responded well to the atmosphere created by home fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium.  He said he expects the fans to create a great setting for Saturday’s game, which is the first home game for Alabama since October 18.

Alabama has not played as consistently on the road as it has at home.

“Our team has always responded to a great atmosphere at home,” Saban said.

“Every time we play a road game we try to duplicate the execution and consistency (Alabama has had at home),” Saban said.  He said the Tide has played “up and down” in road games and played “well at times when we needed to.”

“I hope the formula works that has allowed us to play well at home,” he said.

Saban began his Wednesday evening press conference, poking fun of the media members in attendance.

Apparently, winter weather conditions made the practice session less than comfortable.

“I should have changed the rule today (about letting media members watch practice).   It would have been interesting to see just how exactly soft and how tough this group (the media) is,”  Saban said.



9 thoughts on “Saban: Don’t sack Dak, control the pocket and maintain pressure”

  1. Our run defense this year has been superb with the exception of the QB up the middle on the read option and QB up the middle when the pocket collapses. Containing Dak will be the key.

    1. I still think it’s been pretty great.

      For example, LSU was getting yards when their QB would run up the middle…until Alabama decided to keep a linebacker “spying” on the QB. That decision essentially ended LSU’s ability to run the QB in scrambles or up the middle, albeit it took until the 2nd half.

      Perhaps that will be a go-ahead strategy for MSU? Keep a linebacker on top of the QB at all times regardless of where the misdirection points or even where the football necessarily goes.

      No matter what, the CB’s and safeties for Alabama will be clutch. They will have to single-handedly make big plays, tackles and stops, and hopefully pick an INT from the air. Alabama’s secondary has gotten better, but they’re still a relative weakness versus straight-up football strategies and the run.

      And don’t forget, MSU’s success is based off the hurry-up-no-huddle-no-substitution mindset. It’s not designed to play fundamental football. While I think MSU probably could be competitive under any rule set before 2008 and fundamental football, there’s no way to know, and they’re going to face a fundamental football team that will hit them all night in spite of coming off a physical pounding at LSU. Mississippi is likely prepared to be hit for 4 quarters, and the HUNHNS aims to eliminate as many hits as possible, so I don’t expect them to struggle with execution in any quarter of this game.

      Therefore, for Alabama, they have to execute for 4 quarters, too, and perhaps most importantly on offense. Simply put, nobody can stop any HUNHNS team with legitimate fundamental talent from scoring points (even if it seemed to work perfectly against TAMU). You have to score on a team like this to win, and that means being virtually flawless on offense with hopefully no turnovers and long, sustained drives, i.e. running the ball. Alabama must establish a run game, and they have to make it heavy for big play opportunities to be taken for throws over 20 yards. Perhaps some hurry-up will even be introduced again with Alabama’s offense, but I expect plenty of clock mangement and delayed snaps on the Crimson Tide’s behalf, too.

      1. without a doubt, the best defense against the HUNH is a ball control offense.

        Blake and the boys on O need to get off to a fast start and keep the pressure on for 60m.

        1. MSU has the 120th-best pass defense in the nation.

          And something tells me they haven’t had to face Cooper.

          As long as Cooper and co. aren’t dropping balls in their chests again, they’re an incredible threat.

          With that said, watch OJ Howard. Watch. He hasn’t had a breakout game yet. He won’t have a breakout game Saturday. But the way he caught balls against LSU, I would be very surprised if he doesn’t at least have a breakout play or two.

          Oh, and Cooper.

          Ah, Cooper.

          Don’t forget, Saban coaches to play every game like it was any game. It comes down to execution, because MSU is more concerned with the reputation and significance of Alabama than Alabama is with MSU. That’s not meant as disrespect, but it seems like nobody can forget when they face Alabama. They can’t. MSU didn’t last weekend, and they won’t this weekend. Prescott can’t pretend he doesn’t know this is his shot at a Heisman trophy. Alabama though just sees an opponent they have to defeat at home.

          Alabama hasn’t scored a first-quarter TD in the game following an LSU match in several years. Curious…

  2. Alabama QB Blake Simms need only 485 yards to become the Alabama all-time QB record holder for total yardage in a season.

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