Coaches preach it all the time.
Communicate. . . . communicate. . . . communicate.
Over and over and over and over.
Sometimes it clicks for the players. Other times, not so much.
Such was the case in the season opener against Florida State when secondary leader Kendarius Webster went down with a season-ending knee injury early in the game and FSU proceeded, with a freshman QB, to light Ole Miss up through the air to the tune of 419 yards, enough to spark a torrid comeback after being down as much as 28-6 late in the first half.
After a game the Rebels could learn little about its secondary versus Wofford, who ran a triple option offense and very little passing, the question comes up again. Can the secondary — more specifically, the cornerbacks — rise up to the challenge of the Crimson Tide and do a better job than they did in Orlando against the pass?
Senior CB Carlos Davis is confident the issues have been worked out and things will be different Saturday at 2:30 p.m. when the No. 1 Tide rolls into Oxford. The game will be carried by CBS.
“We didn’t challenge the (Florida State) receivers enough that game, I don’t think,” Davis stated. “From now on, I think that we’re going to start challenging receivers and pressing more. We played off because we had help underneath, but everything just wasn’t working out, the communication and everything just had to get better and all of that.
“(Losing Webster) kind of did throw us for a loop, but a lot guys just knew that we had to step up and just try to be a contributor to the team. We all just need to do our job and do it with good technique. We have to communicate what's going on in the secondary better."
Davis said that shouldn't be hard to do with the defensive line the Rebel have.
“I feel like everybody on the whole just needs to do their job and do it the right way,” Davis allowed. “I mean with press coverage, we have the best d-linemen in the nation, so if we stay with our man for three seconds, four seconds, it’s going to be a win for us.
“Alabama has deep threat guys, and they’re fast and explosive. Our cornerbacks just have to adjust and get back to thinking and playing like we play. (Alabama) can play. We can play with anybody in the nation. You know that we’ve got the best receivers here and we guard them every day, so once we just get comfortable and just do our assignments and work technique, we’ll be fine.”
Davis said the young safeties have come a long way since Florida State.
“I mean, of course they’re young safeties,” stated Davis “They’re still adjusting to the playbook and what not, but they’re actually talking a lot. They just need to talk. Communication-wise, we didn’t communicate a lot (against FSU). I was just telling (Zedrick Woods) and Myles (Hartsfield), whatever you’re thinking, just let me know, so that we can be on the same page, or if you’re thinking wrong, I can tell you right. If I’m thinking something else, I can just tell you. That’s about it. I’m trying to lead the pack, just help guys communicate and get better.”
Davis has been thrust into a leadership position with Webster out and he likes it.
“It's all about communicating and helping each other out," he explained. “I’ve just trying to be a leader. You’ve just got to help the other guys now. Just do the right things now because they’re looking up to you now that you’re a starter.”
Davis will handle kickoff returns and punt returns this week against Alabama. He likes the responsibility.
“I feel like I’m close (to breaking one),” stated Davis. “The kickoff return team gave me some good blocking, and I just ran with it. I’m actually back on punt this week. They got me back there this week.”
The Rebel program has a two-game win streak going versus Alabama and that helps the overall confidence level going into Saturday, Davis said.
“It’s a different year, but we have lot of confidence,” he noted. “We’ve got a lot of great guys. I think we’ve got a better team than last year. We’ve just got to come together as a unit and play ball.”
Davis has seen a lot of energy at practice this week, but he says the defense has to step up their game quite a bit this week.
“It’s a lot better energy,” he said. “That’s what (Ole Miss head) coach (Hugh) Freeze talked about (Tuesday), energy, the whole defense(’s) running to the ball and creating turnovers. That’s the big thing that the defense hasn’t gotten much of. We haven’t gotten much turnovers. We’re the landshark defense, and we’re known for getting turnovers, so I feel like we just have to get more turnovers this week.”
Versus the Seminoles, the Rebel pass defense - minus Ken Webster - was poor. Wofford did not challenge them to find out if improvement had been made.
They will be challenged this week against Alabama.
Will they accept the challenge? The answer will be one of the keys to the outcome.