DePriest Returns, Gives Tide Defense Lift

Several team leaders with varying degrees of game experience, played big roles in the Crimson Tide’s rain-shortened 41-0 runaway win over Florida Atlantic Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in the Tide’s home opener. Defensively, things seemed more in sync with the return from suspension of senior linebacker Trey DePriest, who missed the opener against West Virginia with an NCAA-mandated suspension.

Trey DePriest plays the most vital spot on the Alabama defense: middle, or “Mike” linebacker.

“’Mike’ is the most important position on the field, because you get everyone lined up,” DePriest said. “I wasn’t able to travel (to Atlanta for the West Virginia game), but I watched the game on TV. Nobody seemed comfortable on defense. It hurt my heart.

“I play a big role in leadership on the team. My defense trusts me.”

DePriest said he could tell, even from his den, that game one starters Reggie Ragland and Reuben Foster were out of sync when it came to making calls. DePriest made a point to speak to both Sunday at a team meeting. “I told them to shake it off. It is what it is,” he said.

In three and a half quarters Saturday, Alabama held FAU to but 145 yards of offense. DePriest said, “Today, the defense was real comfortable. We took a step forward in establishing our identity, but it’s not there yet.”

Another leader on the team, junior wide receiver Amari Cooper, tied a school single game record with 13 catches. He now shares that mark with D.J. Hall, but seemed to downplay the record with a short response of “Yeah, that’s cool.” Cooper had more to say about his and his team’s overall performance while rolling up 620 yards during the abbreviated blowout. Cooper said he saw a different attitude after kickoff. “The biggest improvement I saw is, we didn’t come out flat, and we were more consistent in what we did,” he said. “I think as a team, we dominated in all phases of ball.”

As well as he played while rolling up 189 yards receiving including a 52-yard score on a screen, Cooper still felt he could have done better. “I think I could have gotten more yards out of my catches by making people miss,” he said.

On the two quarterbacks, Cooper said he felt Blake Sims and Jake Coker both did well. “This week, both those guys went out there and read the keys and got the ball to the right place,” he said. Sims, who seemed more comfortable in making but his second start under center, threw for 214 yards on 11-of-13 passing and passed for a pair of touchdowns. He seemed happy that, for a second straight game, offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin called for a no-huddle/hurry-up offense much of the contest.

“Going fast helps me out a lot,” Sims said. “It gives us a chance to keep the defense off balance. When we have playmakers like Amari Cooper, Christion Jones and Chris Black, they do the job for you.

“My confidence is coming on. We all love each other and want the best for each other.”

Jake Coker felt the love from Sims after tossing his first Alabama touchdown pass, a 3-yarder to Jalston Fowler. “Blake was the first one there to hug me when I threw the touchdown,” Coker said. “He’s an awesome guy.”

Coker added, “It’s tough to be in this (quarterback competition) position as a transfer. I’m just now getting back in football shape. I’m playing faster now.”

Asked about bulling over an Owl defender on a scramble near the goal line, Coker said he was “just playing football, man. That’s all I got.” Coker finished 15-of-24 passing for 202 yards and a touchdown.

Another player just getting back into the swing of things is sophomore cornerback Eddie Jackson, who made his first start and appearance of the season coming off spring knee surgery. “I feel like the knee wasn’t bothering me at all,” Jackson said. “It was real tough (not playing last week). I wanted to be out there so bad.

“I went into the game (against FAU) confident because the guys (on the team) talked me up and lifted me up.”

Of his time away from game action, which included A-Day and the WVU contest, Jackson said, “It was kind of frustrating. I was kind of down, but the coaches and trainers kept my spirits up. I did a LOT of rehab, like two or three times a day.”

Jackson was tied for second among Bama players for tackles Saturday with four, along with Landon Collins, A’Shawn Robinson and DePriest. Jackson also forced a fumble, which leading tackler Ragland (five stops with a sack) recovered.

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