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.