Like the Wishbone

Alabama defensive coordinator Joe Kines invited anyone who wanted to watch the film of the Texas Tech offense back to the film room after his media interviews, but there was a catch – only if you can figure out what to do against it, he said.

It can't be said that Kines has never overstated the opposition, and certainly he has an idea of what he would like to do to defend the offense, but there is a reason that quarterback Cody Hodges leads the nation with 378.8 yards of total offense, and that running back Taurean Henderson is second in the country in scoring with a two touchdown-per-game average.

"Quite a draw we drew," Kines said. "If this makes any sense at all, it's like the wishbone, but throwing the ball. The wishbone is based on reads and running the base plays over and over. They're doing the same thing except they're throwing the ball. The quarterback does a great job reading the coverage and they run the routes over and over and over and over and he does a great job of adapting based on what the defense is doing."

Those reads include spreading the ball with almost perfectly equal distribution to the Red Raiders' top four receivers. No. 1 receiver Robert Johnson has 64 receptions on the year. Behind him, Jarrett Hicks and Henderson have 62 catches each, and Joel Filani – in fourth place – has 61 receptions on the season.

For comparison's sake, Alabama's fourth-leading receiver is a tie between Tyrone Prothro, who played in five games before the season-ending injury, and fullback Le'Ron McClain with 17 catches each.

It's all a part of trying to explain the uniqueness Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach uses to move the football.

"It's a heck of an offense," Kines said. "Hodges is the ideal quarterback for this offense. He is a great reader and puts the ball where it's supposed to be."

For even veteran Alabama players, it's not much like anything else they have seen. And in place of the scout team offense, the staff has matched the first-string offense against the first-string defense to try and help the acclimation. Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula is also putting a greater emphasis on film study.

"We've had real good work on the practice field," Shula said. "We have to get ourselves ready for Texas Tech; get caught up with the film."

The squad will practice Sunday but will spend 3 hours or more at the complex watching film and lifting weights.

"We want them feeling good about the guys they are going against and the different things they will be asked to do. They do things differently than a lot of teams offensively and we have to make sure we adjust to that. Defensively, they have bigger guys inside that try to anchor in and that are hard to move."

Kines said the teams that had some success indicated that the key was preventing the big play and being able to apply pressure on the quarterback. Bets are that Alabama will enter the game with a strategy of trying to get to Hodges with a three- or four-man rush.

And it's not a typical game for the down linemen, either. Texas Tech lines up with extraordinarily wide splits from their linemen. While most teams leave a gap of just over a foot between center and guard, guard and tackle (and so on), Texas Tech will spread much wider.

"If the ball's on this hash, the tackle may be all the way out at midfield," Kines said. "That's the reason you put cheese in a rat trap. ‘Come on in here and get it', then they slide in there and block you."

And don't breathe a sigh of relief if the Tide stops the Raiders on three consecutive plays. The Red Raiders are 13-of-17 on fourth down this season. As Kines puts it "They are just as liable to go for it on fourth down as they are to punt it. You have to play all four downs."


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