Stuart McNair

Florida Gators’ opponent preview: Alabama Crimson Tide

Florida will face its toughest test of the season on Saturday in the SEC Championship Game.


The Alabama offense ranks No. 6 in the SEC in total offense with 421.3 yards per game. The unit also ranks No. 3 in scoring offense (34.5 points), No. 3 in rushing offense (206.2 yards) and No. 5 in passing offense (215.2 yards).


After the quarterback position was unsettled through the early part of the schedule, Jacob Coker is now quarterback of the Crimson Tide. The senior has completed 65.4 percent (204-312) of his passes this year for 2,285 yards, 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has gained 209 yards on the ground with his legs and scored two rushing touchdowns.

Backup Cooper Bateman has also played in all 12 games this season, happening mostly as Alabama continues to blow teams out.


The Gators will face their third Heisman Trophy candidate of the season in Derrick Henry. The junior’s stats are almost hard to believe, totaling 1,797 yards on 295 carries for 6.1 yards per carry. He has 22 touchdowns on the ground with 149.8 rushing yards per game. Averaging over 24 carries per game while running the ball 46 times last week alone, Henry still hasn’t shown signs of wearing down. If anything, the junior is getting better.


Florida won’t be the only team leaning on a freshman receiver Saturday. Alabama freshman Calvin Ridley leads the Crimson Tide in all receiving categories with 67 catches, 791 yards and five touchdowns. He’s averaging 65.9 receiving yards per game.

Sophomore ArDarius Stewart is second on the team with 50 catches for 536 receiving yards with three touchdowns. Slot receiver Richard Mullaney has 31 catches for 286 yards and four touchdowns.


O.J. Howard is the primary receiving tight end for Alabama with 30 receptions for 335 yards and zero touchdowns. At 6-6, 242 pounds, Howard has better athleticism than you’d expect and creates mismatches for opposing defenses.


The lesser-known part of Henry’s success on the ground is a dominant offensive line. All five starters are over 297 pounds, and it’s a unit

Left tackle Cam Robinson was a starter as a true freshman last season and has started every game this year as a sophomore. The 6-6, 326-pounder was one of the top overall recruits in the 2014 class. Left guard Ross Pierschbacher is a true freshman and has started every game this year.

Center Ryan Kelly is the unquestioned leader of the offensive line and an important part of the line in the last four seasons. The senior has started every game this year. Right guard Alphonse Taylor and right tackle Dominick Jackson have combined to start all but one game this season.


The Alabama defense is No. 1 in the SEC in scoring defense (14.3 points), rushing defense (78.9 yards) and total defense (264.6 yards). The only category not at the top is the No. 5 passing defense (185.7 yards).


Starting three defensive linemen, the Alabama defense line uses Darren Lake at nose guard, a 6-3, 315-pounder. He has just three tackles this season but his most important role is eating space in the middle of the line

The team’s depth chart lists Jarran Reed and A’Shawn Robinson as the starters at defensive end, and both weigh over 310 pounds. They can both play inside, where their future likely is at the next level. They’ve combined for 10.5 tackles for a loss with four sacks and 14 quarterback hurries.

This unit dominates with its depth. Jonathan Allen is listed as a backup defensive end, but he leads the team with 11.5 tackles for a loss and nine sacks.


Reggie Regland is the star linebacker in Saban’s defense, leading the team with 90 tackles, which is 32 more than anyone else on the team. Ragland fills the stat sheet with 6.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, five pass deflection, four quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles.

Reuben Foster also starts and has 58 tackles with five tackles for a loss and eight pass deflections. In obvious passing situations, Alabama plays Tim Williams off the edge. The junior is second on the team with 6.5 sacks despite only 15 tackles this season.


Cyrus Jones and Marlon Humphrey start at cornerback for the Crimson Tide. Jones has one interception with seven pass breakups and eight pass deflections to go with four tackles for a loss. Humphrey, a freshman, has two interceptions, five pass breakups and seven pass deflections with two forced fumbles.


Eddie Jacskon and Geno Matias-Smith are two experienced safeties that give the Crimson Tide playmaking ability on the back of the defense. Jackson leads the team with five interceptions, adding one forced fumble. Matias-Smith has 56 tackles with one interception and one forced fumble.


Alabama is No. 11 in the SEC in kickoff returns, averaging 18.7 yards per return. They are No. 1 at kickoff coverage, and No. 9 in net punt average (36.2 yards). The Crimson Tide is No. 14 in punt return average (13.9 yards) and No. 9 in field goal percent (70.4 percent, 19-27).

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