Tide Pass Defense Facing Strong-Armed QB

All-in-all, Alabama’s pass defense hasn’t been too bad this year. The Crimson Tide has held opponents to only 54.5 per cent success and has turned in 10 interceptions against 17 touchdowns. Still, the Tide has given up 223.8 passing yards per game.

Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones has turned in two of those interceptions and has broken up a team-high nine of the 54 passes broken up by Bama defenders.

Jones, a 5-10, 194-junior, and his Crimson Tide teammates are in practice, but specific work on the next opponent has not begun. Bama had its third practice of the week Thursday, and the emphasis has been on fundamentals.

Alabama will meet Ohio State in two weeks, Jan. 1, at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. It will be one of two semifinal games played that day (Oregon vs. Florida State in the Rose Bowl is the other) in the inaugural College Football Playoff. The winners go to the national championship game in Dallas on Jan. 12.

Alabama and Ohio State are both 12-1 overall and both won their league championship games.

Even though Bama has not been working specifically on Ohio State, Jones said he had watched “a little bit” of videotape of the Buckeyes. “They’ve got athletes all over the field,” he said. “Good quarterback, good running backs, too. Just like the teams we play in our league. We’ve got to account for everything they like to do and be prepared to try to stop it.”

The big story from Ohio State is quarterback Cardale Jones, who was third team when the season started, but who has been elevated to number one because of injuries to others. Although Cardale Jones has been the starter for only one game, it was an impressive one, a 59-0 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game.

A highlight of that Ohio State romp was success in the deep passing game.

Jones said Ohio State has “a lot of guys who can stretch the field and a quarterback who has a live arm.

“In the back of [the Tide defense], we’ve got to be in tip-tiop shape, knowing what to expect in certain formations and what they like to do, what routes they like to run the most.”

Cyrus Jones said it’s “a little bit” weird preparing for a quarterback who has played only one game, “but we’ve got to prepare for them as if he was their starting quarterback, as if he’d been the guy all year. You’ve got to game plan.”

He said Cardale Jones is similar to the two Ohio State quarterbacks lost to injury, Braxton Miller before the start of the season and J.T. Barrett in the Buckeyes’ final regular season game. “They all can do the same things,” Cyrus Jones said. “They can run it and throw it. Definitely, you have to respect a quarterback who’s able to make those plays with his legs.”

Jones is aware that Alabama did not do a good job in pass defense in its last two games, the regular season finale against Auburn (a 55-44 win) and the SEC Championship Game (a 42-13 win over Missouri. He said the Missouri game was a matter of the quarterback escaping the pocket from a good pass rush. “We’ve just got to do a better job of staying with our man once the play breaks down,” he said.

He said the Auburn game was “our eyes were in the wrong place a lot of the times, so we’ve got to do a bteter job of looking at the right stuff and staying with our man on scrambles.”

Jones said the first practices this week have been good. He said he expected work on Ohio State to begin as early as Friday. “I think we’ve gradually been getting into it,” he said.

Jones said he thinks he has matured , this year, including mentally. “I just matured a lot as a player, as a person. He said, “I just approached it, I think, the right way this year. I did a lot of growing up last year. I just think overall I’m just a more complete player so I’ve been able to put myself in a better position.

“Definitely. It takes time to just, feel comfortable and understand your assignments and everything you’ve got to do. If you’re not 100 per cent sure what you’re doing out there, you’re out there playing kind of with your heat cut off, guessing, playing not to make mistakes instead of just playing fast and trying to make plays.”

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