Earlier this year when first-year Alabama quarterback Blake Sims was having some trouble getting the offense on the same page, Coach Nick Saban went to a fast-paced offense that included shortcut signals, and Sims used that technique -- avoiding the complicated play call -- to get back on track.
This week Bama will be facing its fifth no-huddle team in as many games when the Tide goes to Oxford to take on the Ole Miss Rebels at 2:30 p.m. CDT. Both teams are 4-0 overall and 1-0 in Southeastern Conference games. CBS will televise the game between Bama (ranked first in the Coaches Poll, third in the Associated Press ranking) against Mississippi (15th).
Bama middle linebacker Trey DePriest, a 6-3, 250-pound third year senior starter, is the man charged with getting a defensive signal from Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart on the sidelines, and then putting the front men – linemen and linebackers – in the correct alignment.
There was a suggestion that Smart might simplify the calls against the fast-paced offenses the Tide is facing.
“No!” said DePriest. “ No. Coach Smart wouldn’t do that. We just have to get it figured out.”
And DePriest thinks that has been done.
He said, “We’ve been practicing it since January, February, whenever we started spring ball (it was March). So pretty much every day we’ve practiced against it, so that tells me it’s not really a problem. We do it every day in starts and stuff, so I don’t think it’s a problem.”
“We were ready for it a year ago, but we just didn’t play it the way we wanted to play it. I wouldn’t say we weren’t ready for it, but just didn’t play it the right way.”
DePriest spent the off weekend in Atlanta with his son visiting friends, barbecuing, and watching college football. He said that he watches games as a fan, not as if he is in the film room preparing for a game. “I’m going to get all that when I come here [football building], so I just try to watch it. Of course, I watch to see how people play, but I don’t put too much into it.”
As it turned out, he wasn’t able to find the channel showing last Saturday’s Ole Miss win over Memphis.
Almost everyone is pointing out that this is a very big week in SEC Western Division football.
“That’s the way it is,” DePriest said. “The SEC every year is a power conference, and us having to play all those teams is going to be a long road. We’ve got six or seven straight SEC games, so it’s going to be tough. But the coaches will have us prepared for it. We’ll be all right.”
DePriest said when he thinks about games against Ole Miss he thinks “They are always good games. Intense. We’re fired up, they’re fired up. We both usually have good records. It’s just smash-mouth football.”
The Bama defense will have to be prepared for a senior, three-year starter at quarterback in Bo Wallace. DePriest said, “Him being a vet, he pretty much gets them lined up and he’s a dual threat. He can take off and run when he wants. He does a good job. They have run pass options. He does a good job of sticking the ball in the running back’s stomach and then pulling it out and throwing it. Pretty much him being a vet is the big thing. They are all looking to him. He’s the signal-caller. He runs everything.”
Last year in Tuscaloosa, Ole Miss had some early drives that ended with the Rebels going for it on fourth down plays and not making it. DePriest understood both the early Mississippi success and Alabama finally getting it stopped.
He said, “They do stuff offensively that can be tough for any defense to prepare for because they have a great running game, big guys up front, plus a dual-threat quarterback, so they are going to pick up their yards. Once they settle in, you can pretty much see what is coming. The plays they run in the beginning are pretty much the plays they are going to run for the game. That’s what I figured out from having been here four years; there really aren’t as many plays as you think. They have their set plays they are going to run and if one is successful, that’s going to be their bread and butter; that’s what they are going to go back to. Once you realize the formation, it’s pretty much set.
“That’s every team, not just Ole Miss. They try to hide it with motions and lining up in different formations and motion back to what it’s going to be. You have to look at the last formation they are in and remember the plays they run out of them.”