Torbush previews the MTSU offense

Ranked fifth in the nation last season averaging more than 480 yards per game, Middle Tennessee's offensive attack presents a daunting challenge to Carl Torbush and his Bama defense. <br><br>"We're dealing with an offense that is versatile, very potent, very consistent," Torbush said.

"They've got a wide-open offense. They were right at 239 yards rushing and 249 yards passing. You can't get any more balanced than that."

The Blue Raiders feature talented skill players on offense, but their primary weapon will be Heisman Trophy candidate Dwone Hicks at tailback. "We're dealing with a very potent running game," Torbush said. "There is no doubt Dwone Hicks has had a very solid college career. He's very durable as evidenced by having two seasons in a row of a thousand yards.

Freddie Roach will man the middle for Bama defensively.

"We've got to be able to stop the running game."

Besides Hicks, MTSU running backs ReShard Lee and Don Calloway are also potent weapons. "They've got (several) good running backs," Torbush related. "Hicks is not the only good player they have. The other kid (Lee) gained 800 yards last year. I think we'll see both of them in the game at the same time."

Beyond talent at the tailback position, MTSU's wide-open passing attack makes running easier. The Blue Raiders list four starting wide receivers, led by seniors Tyrone Calico and David Youell. "They've got good receivers," Torbush warned. "Calico is an outstanding player who is a big guy. Ahmaad Galloway went to school with him. Callico is fast. He runs real well and he's a big target. He's 6-3 plus and maybe 220 (pounds). Anytime you get a guy like that matched up with a 5-10 corner, then you're concerned.

"David Youell I've known since he was in middle school. We recruited him to North Carolina, but he wound up at Middle Tennessee. He's done good things for them."

MTSU is also very solid on the offensive line. Torbush explained, "They've got weapons at all their skill positions, and on the offensive line they've got (four) starters back. They've all been around a long time. They know the game. They know what to do. They can make adjustments during the game."

Middle did lose their starting quarterback from last season, but Andrico Hines is a junior college transfer who spent last season on the MTSU sideline learning the offense. "Their only area of worry right now would be the experience of their quarterback," Torbush said. "And the only way you can get experience is to play."

Last season was an up and down year for the Tide defensively, but Carl Torbush expects improvement in 2002.

Torbush identified three things the Tide defense must do to stop the Blue Raider attack.

"There's no doubt we're going to have to stop the run. If we don't stop Hicks, then we could be in for a long day.

"Second, we have to do a good job tackling.

"And hopefully we'll be able to create some turnovers. Ideally we'd like to get ourselves off the field, three and out. That's going to be important with an 11:30 game this time of the year. It's going to be hot."

For an Alabama defense that was often inconsistent tackling last season, MTSU will be an important early test. "Their receivers get a lot of yards after catch," Torbush said. "And with Hicks, a lot of his yards come after he's made the first contact. He's a physical runner that keeps his pads down very low."

MTSU is also known for its no-huddle, almost frenzied offense. But during his long career coordinating defenses in the SEC and Atlantic Coast Conference, Torbush has seen it all before. "Clemson was like that. Florida State was like that every year. And Maryland was probably one of the original teams to use no-huddle. That's not something that's been one of our biggest worries.

"We're worrying about those players they're playing with. They've got SEC caliber players at the skill positions."

One thing the no-huddle offense will do is limit Torbush's ability to make defensive adjustments from the sideline. Torbush said that during Saturday's game middle linebackers Freddie Roach (redshirt freshman) and Derrick Pope (junior college transfer) would make the calls for the defensive front. And free safeties Charles Jones (junior) and Roman Harper (redshirt freshman) would handle secondary coverages.

Facing MTSU's no-huddle offense, free safety Charles Jones will have to make secondary adjustments on the fly.

But despite their relative inexperience, Torbush believes they'll be up to the job. "You worry a little bit, but they've done a good job," he explained. "I worry about first-game jitters like we had with all the defensive backs last year. Scrimmages and the spring game gets them going in the right direction, but it's not the same as fall football in front of 80,000 people. We'll make sure we don't ask (Freddie Roach) to do a lot of checks and balances early in the ball game until he gets settled down some."

The no-huddle offense can also disrupt substitution patterns, but Torbush doesn't believe conditioning will be a problem. "They're not really running any more plays than a team that does huddle," he said. "Depth is a concern because of the time of year that we're playing and the time of the day (11:30 am kickoff). As long as we don't get anybody hurt, we feel like we've got some depth."

Middle Tennessee will obviously bring a talented attack to the game Saturday, but Torbush is frankly anxious to see how much his defense has improved. "I'll be very disappointed if we're not able to get done what we want to get done defensively," he said. "Right now our players are healthy. I think we've made a lot of improvement from the end of the season through spring practice all the way through fall camp. I like where this defense is right now.

"But until we're able to get some things done consistently during the ball game there's not much use talking about it."


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