Few know this better than Mississippi State offensive line coach John Hevesy. Four years at Florida, and now seven seasons with the Bulldogs, have given him as thorough an awareness and appreciation of how the Crimson Tide front plays football.
Hevesy also knows in this Saturday’s matchup schemes are of less importance than bare-bones basics. “Fundamentals, and technique,” he says.
Tuesday, Hevesy went over the state is his front-five after last week’s mid-game adjustments at Missouri when a pre-half injury to LT Rufus Warren forced shuffles on the line. Warren is expected to be back this week, along with his backup Elgton Jenkins.
How did Justin Malone play thrown into the left tackle role last week? “He did alright. To me, I give him a lot of credit just for going out there. I mean he’s taken a lot of reps really at every position the last couple of weeks, just because of being nicked-up. I have a bunch of my guys doing that.”
“Really besides one major one, he didn’t set deep enough on and gave up the sack, they hit Dak (Prescott) in the back, I think he did a good job. Again, he’s been around here five years, knows the system. Keeping him on the left side didn’t hamper his stance and all those things. So to me he did a good job. But obviously he’s got to keep getting better every opportunity he has.”
He said he hasn’t played tackle since he was 17 years old. When you approached with that opportunity what was his reaction? “It doesn’t really matter!”
“Really a lot of times last year towards the end of the season he was getting a lot of reps doing the same thing. Really he’s got reps at center, he’s got reps at tackle, he’s got reps everywhere. Just because as you start getting to this part of the season getting some practice reps and certain guys dinged up, he takes the opportunity. So in case something happens in a game he’s got to go out and go.”
“Live in a game that was his first time. So that’s why I said he did a good job. But to me it’s still accountable for what he has. It’s not mentally a burden on him so he’s got to keep getting ready, to prepare himself if he has to do it again.”
Were you trying to protect Elgton Jenkins for this week? “Yeah, he had a slight injury with his knee. Just something where he could have played, to a point where if we had to go he could go. But it was to a point of get him healthier for this week. So it’s give him four more days of rest before he has to go practice again. It’s kind of a decision at the point, go ahead and do it. And if it was a similar situation, I had someone else, then Elgton would have to go.”
How did the entire group do, with Deion Calhoun at guard? “Again I think we did decently. I think there’s about three or four plays in there…one of our things going in was their line-movement, because Missouri is a big line-movement team. I think for the most part that if three or four more plays we had handled better, three of them Dak running on a power play to left, if we picked up the twist coming over the top a little cleaner he’s probably scoring. There’s about two other plays the same way that the little things, knowing if you clean that up it’s a different game, too.”
Coach Mullen said Alabama’s front seven has stars on stars, how do they utilize that talent? “This is eleven years in this league, you watch over those years. They’re very fundamentally sound, they play hard. Not that they do an abundance of defense but you watch what they do, what they’re asked to do, they do very well.”
“So they’re hard to move, they’re big, strong guys in there. The front four and two linebackers are big kids that can run. So like I told my kids it’s going to come down to fundamentals and technique. It’s not going to be I’m stronger than you, I’m not stronger than you. It’s fundamentals and technique. Each play as you go whoever has better fundamentals and technique will win that repetition. Obviously we’ve got to win more than they do.”
At this point of the season with how the running backs are used, is it a difference by matchups or situations? “A little bit of both. They’re going to play. With Dontavian (Lee) being out last week too it was a matter of play Shump, play Aeris, play them all, play Holloway. Just kind of play them and as they go there are certain things certain guys won’t do. But for the most part play them.”
“Again it’s get them all experience. Because as you see this part of the season every year very few people stay healthy through the whole season. So that’s why early on the season get them reps, get them in the game. Now it’s crunch time in the last three games so it’s keep getting them reps, so when they get to this time it’s not a shock to them playing in a game.”
How do you see Aeris Williams developing? “Good. Like anything he’s still a freshman. So it’s things he has to learn; cutting, running, and understanding the schemes of how things are being blocked. So when he sees it he understands more how to run with it. Go back to a young being more of a high school kid running just as hard as he can, as fast as he can, straight-ahead and used to break those tackles. Now, they don’t. So now it’s that one little cut they’ve got to learn. I think he’s doing a great job learning and the more reps he gets the better he’s going to get.”
In a matchup like this, is Shumpert’s blocking more of a factor since Holloway’s spirit is willing but the body isn’t up to it? “Yeah, there’s things you really don’t want…for Brandon if he gets in certain situations of blocking he becomes like a fly on a windshield at times. Which you don’t really want him in those situations ever of taking on a 250-pound linebacker. The one thing he’s going to give you is everything he’s got. He’s going to do his job, he’s going to be in the right position, it’s just make sure you don’t want him in certain situations where he’s going to get stuck doing that.”
Is Alabama just a more over-powering defensive front than Missouri? “Yeah, that’s what they are. You watch them up front. They’re going to put their feet in the ground and get their hands on you, they’re going to block you out and look for the ball and they’re going to defeat blocks. That’s their whole thing, it’s fundamentals. I guarantee they’re over there hitting that sled 100 times a day. Hit that sled, lock it up, see the ball, get off the block, go make a tackle.”
“Same thing for us. Our objective is to get in them, fit on them and maintain that block. Finish through and maintain that block so when they go we have to accelerate our feet, and get that four yards we need on that run play.”