Ole Miss Offense Not Same As Aggies

So you want to beat Alabama? Just go to a spread the field style offense, right? Maybe not. In any event, all spread offenses are not the same. The one that has Johnny Manziel at quarterback is built a little differently than the others, for instance.

In the past, Alabama Coach Nick Saban has pointed out that there is not a great deal of similarity in the Ole Miss offense his team will face Saturday and the one the Tide had to win by out-scoring (49-42) Texas A&M a few weeks ago. When Saban was asked about similarities and differences in the two attacks during the Southeastern Conference teleconference Wednesday, the Tide coach was able to point to some similarities.

But he pointed more to the differences.

"Ole Miss has a lot of spread formations," he said. "Ole Miss has a very, very good running game from that.

"I think A&M was really more of a zone dive, quarterback run-type offense, whereas Ole Miss runs a lot of sweeps, a lot of perimeter plays, a lot of play-action passes off their running game.

"Even though the formations may be similar, the philosophy is not the same. I think what both teams do is particularly effective for the players that they have. I think Ole Miss does a great job with the players that they have and featuring the players that they have in what they do best.

"This is definitely going to be a challenging game for us. We're trying to improve as a team fundamentally, technique-wise, team chemistry; everything to try to get a little bit better, a little more consistency in performance.

"Ole Miss certainly has a very explosive offense, really quick and create a lot of negative plays on defense, very good specialists and returners in the kicking game.

"This is a really, really good team. They've won five games in a row, and they are very confident. We need to play our best football to be able to have any success against them."

Alabama will host the Rebels at 5:30 p.m. CDT Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Both teams are 3-0 overall and 1-0 in SEC games. Bama is ranked first in the nation, Mississippi 21st. The Rebels are coming off an open date, while the Crimson Tide is coming off a lackluster 31-6 win over Colorado State.

Saban was questioned about the performance – or lack of performance – by Bama.

"I think you're always struggling with consistency in performance and I think that's what we're talking about," Saban said. "That we eliminate some mental errors, we eliminate some technique errors, so we can play with a little more consistency, whether it's offense, defense giving up big plays, negative plays on offense.

"I believe in our team. I think we can be a good team. I think we can improve and get better.

"And I think we need to make that progress if we're going to be the team that we're capable of being."

Saban had hinted earlier in the week that back-up senior safety Nick Perry might have a season-ending shoulder surgery. He said that Perry is definitely out this week and added "I think that the decision has been made that he'll probably need surgery. I don't think we've scheduled a time for that."

Much of the teleconference was devoted to the new penalties for "targeting," players hitting defenseless players above the head or targeting a player by launching and leading with the helmet.

The first thing Saban did was clear up any perception that he is against the rule.

"I haven't been critical of the targeting rule," he responded to that implication. "I don't know where you got that.

"I think it's a work in progress. I think that the rule is what it is. We all understand it. It's a difficult call sometimes for the officials when they're bang bang. We have a lot of compassion for the good job that they do.

"Maybe there's something that we look at after the season and change the rule for the better. But it is for the safety of the players and I think that should be the goal and the objective and the No. 1 concern."

Saban was critical of the way the rule is administered insofar as review, and that came from a call against Tide safety HaHa Clinton-Dix in the first half of the Texas A&M game. Clinton-Dix was flagged for targeting an A&M wide receiver, and video replays showed clearly that not only had Clinton-Dix not targeted the receiver, he had not been guilty of any violation of rules.

The administration of the rule calls for automatic ejection of a player for the remainder of the half he is playing and the next half, whether it be in the second half of the game he is playing or the first half of the next game on the schedule. For that reason, the call must be reviewed.

The review found that Clinton-Dix was not guilty of targeting, and thus was not ejected. However, the replay official did not have the authority to overturn the 15-yard personal foul penalty that was called against Clinton-Dix.

Saban's complaint was that as long as the play is being reviewed, if the replay official can determine that not only was targeting the wrong call, but so was the personal foul, why couldn't the entire penalty be overturned.

Saban was asked if the severe penalty of the rule made players less aggressive.

"Our guys are trying to be aggressive," Saban said. "I think they've got to be careful and we try to coach them and let them know that they can't launch and they can't be hitting people high. That doesn't mean that you can't see what you hit. We try to teach shoulder tackling anyway.

"So keep your head your head out of it and don't hit them in the head. I don't see our guys being any less aggressive. I do think they're trying to play a little smarter when it comes to that."

Unquestionably, concussions to players are of great concern. Saban pointed out that medical technology has a big effect on how concussions are addressed. He said, "I think there's no question that the technology that we have right now in terms of the tests that we can give players from a players safety standpoint before we allow them to come back has...I think first of all, the awareness is greater. Secondly, the technology is greater, and I think the medical staff has done a lot better job of implementing the technology for the safety of the players and not allowing guys to come back so quickly until they've totally cleared. I don't even think we had that kind of technology 20-25 years ago. I know we didn't have it when I played. When you had a concussion, as soon as you knew your name and where you were from, they kind of put you back in the game. That wasn't anybody's fault, it was just the way it was. And now there's a lot more awareness to it and a lot better technology, and the medical staff is doing a much better job, I think, of handling the safety of the player after a concussion.

"I think that player safety is always going to be a real issue that everybody is concerned about in the NFL and the NCAA, at all levels. Even all the way down to Peewee and Pop Warner. I think there's a lot of good people that are going to continue to work on the commitment of making our game safe. Will there be some changes? There may be some changes, and if that's for the betterment of the players' safety, I think that's probably a good thing."

Saban also offered condolences to the family of Paul Dietzel, best known as head football coach at LSU in 1958 when the Tigers won their first national championship. Dietzel was also part of the line of coaches who came through Paul Bryant, coaching for Bryant at Kentucky. Saban said, "One thing I would like to say is Paul Dietzel was one of the great coaches, I think. I had a great relationship with him, and I'd just like to pass from the Crimson Tide to his family our thoughts and condolences. And God bless."

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