Bulldog Defensive Front Challenges Typical Tide Power Run Game

There are the obligatory press conferences with Dan Mullen and Dak Prescott. But poll this press corps and it’s unanimous who is highlight of each weekly interview cycle. For a fellow who in August claimed he’d only talk on record once, A.J. Jefferson has turned into press room star.

Unfortunately for the public, if fortunately for himself and antsy p.r. staff, much of what gets said never sees print or publishing. But this rising SEC star defensive end is more than a fun football talk. He knows his stuff.


What makes Alabama’s offensive line so effective each year? “Obviously, I feel that they’re a well-coached group every year. I mean they always recruit the top guys, big guys, big athletic, strong guys. Cam Robinson played as a freshman last year, I got a chance to play against him last year. I can tell from watching him play from this point in the season that he’s improved so much.

I just feel like they are who are they are. They’re a good group and well-coached.”


How tough is going against a Derrick Henry who they will run time after time? “Pretty tough. I feel like Alabama, their whole model hasn’t changed. So they’re going to do the same stuff and just keep running the ball, keep running it.”

“Even if it’s four yards they’re going to keep going and rely on the defense’s mental focus. Somebody is going to jump out of a gap or something like that’s when they crease you. So I feel it’s going to be hard, but we train. And stuff like mental focus, I feel like that’s what we’ve been doing. So we’re just going to have to tackle. Because he’s a great back.”


Is there anything you can take from other backs you’ve played, or is he unique? “Yeah, we’ve played against some great backs this year. Obviously Leonard (Fournette, LSU). I mean, I feel he’s one of a kind right now. Like I said, we’re going to have to tackle.”


Is there any difference you see in Alabama’s offensive line from last year? “Not really. As of right now I think the center and left tackle are their two best players, Cam and Kelly. But the other three guys, they’re starters in the SEC. So we’re still going to have to bring our a-game to play against them.”


How important is gap assignment in this game? “Oh, it’s very important. I mean, all week Coach (David) Turner has been preaching to us about consistency and trust.”

“I had a couple of plays, two plays from Thursday where I got chewed for jumping inside, trying to do something I had no business doing. So he’s been kind of harping all week, here’s a guy whose played a lot who did that. Yeah, I made the mistake. So he’s really been preaching on that this week. So we just have to stay in our gaps.”


Does a couple of extra days to rest for his game help or is it overrated? “I think it does. Even if just getting an early jump to watch film on them. We didn’t have a game Saturday so we had a chance to watch them play. I think it does help, it helps a lot.”


Did you watch LSU-Alabama? “Yeah, I watched nothing but football.”


What did you take from it? “I like the way Alabama’s defense plays. I mean, they shut down a good offense. I was real impressed. Derrick Henry was Derrick Henry, the offensive line covered people up and he made some plays.”


Is it different watching on TV than the film? “It is, but it kind of isn’t. Because when we play I’m so used to looking up at the big screen, stuff like that! I can’t just watch the game. Looking at the film I’m always turning around, getting fussed at! Coach Turner says watch him but I’m looking at the jumbotron! It’s really not different for me watching at home.”


You’ve having a breakout year, what has clicked for you this season? “I feel having the same coach. Coach Turner wants us to do the same things over and over. And a guy like Ryan Brown to help me get better, having him and Chris (Jones) and Nelson (Adams) and them to push me, I feel they play a big role in that.”


Last year you had Preston Smith as ‘they guy’, how is this different? “I mean it’s been different without Preston here. I’m not able to just sit on the sideline when he comes out and ask him questions about what did they do, what did he do, what are his tendencies, snap count and stuff like that. It’s a big difference but I still have Ryan and Chris out there. They’re some ‘guys’ also.”


Was last week the best game you’ve seen Chris Jones play? “Yeah, well, I’m not going to lie to you. It was one play me and Chris came to the sideline fussing because he didn’t run the play right. We still got a three-and-out but he didn’t run the play right and he tried to fuss at me because he knew he was wrong!”

“But after that he was all in the backfield. It was crazy. Yeah, that was the hardest I’ve seen him play since I’ve been here. And since he’s showed us what he can do we’re fixing to expect that from him from here on out, nothing less.”


A guy with his ability, do you want to shake him sometimes? “Yeah! Because he showed young guys like Cory Thomas. And Cory has the same build as him, like that’s all you have to do: go hard every play. You might not make every play but you effect a bunch out there. Trying to run the inside zone Chris will knock the guard back and running back has to cut back, and me and Ryan are unblocked. We’ll squeeze and make the tackle at the line of scrimmage. He just played awesome that night.”


How has your role changed from learning to teaching? “It’s changed a whole lot. Because I went from one of the guys, from kind of one of the Indians to being one of the chiefs. But we have guys like Jonathan Calvin, Will Redmond, Grant Harris, to where they’re ready to learn. So it hasn’t been hard.”

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