Ole Miss Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner was caught off guard when a reporter - jokingly - said Alabama didn't have a very good defense this year.
"I must be watching the wrong film," deadpanned Werner.
Werner knows, as did the writer, that Alabama Coach Nick Saban builds his teams starting with the defensive side of the ball and that Alabama is always going to put a quality SEC defense on the field no matter who the head coach is.
"Alabama is very aggressive and physical. They have a lot of speed and they have a veyr good scheme. Coach Saban is always going to give you a lot of different looks," Dan began. "Louisiana Tech was very basic because they didn't want to make assignment mistakes. That works for them. With Alabama, they dare to take chances and are usually sound in taking them.
"Alabama will come with a lot of different blitzes and a lot of different coverages. I was watching their game against Florida State earlier today and late in the game there were no points scored. Obviously, Alabama knows how to play defense. Last week, against Houston, they were way out front and you would expect them to soften up some on defense. They stayed with man coverage and blitzing almost every down. They start by applying pressure and they keep applying it throughout, regardless of the score."
A typical Saban mentality? Apparently.
"Coach Saban likes to zone blitz and throw in some man coverage to keep you honest. You'll see just about anything going against him," Dan added.
Werner said he's never coached against Saban before, but watching his defense on film has made Dan understand the challenge.
"If you are doing a lot things and you are not good at them, you will end up making a lot of mistakes, but his defenses seem to not only do a lot of things, they always seem to be in the right position. They are very well-coached," said Werner. "They do a lot of stuff and they do it right."
On the Rebels' side of the ball, Werner is still striving to get more consistency out of the Ole Miss running game.
"We have not been as consistent as I would hope, obviously," he continued. "There's no one thing that is preventing us from being more consistent there, we just have not come together as a unit the way I had envisioned yet. If it were just one thing, we'd fix it or change people.
"We are all a little frustrated with the run game, but we feel we are close to getting it right."
Dan said he was not upset at the so-so performance in the passing game against Tech, even though it should have produced bigger numbers against the nine-man front defense LaTech utilized.
"Tech was content with stopping the run and, if we did beat them, to interfere and take the penalty," Dan explained. "We have to make them pay in that kind of situation, but we underthrew some balls and didn't execute in the pass game the way we have been.
"Seth (Adams) threw some good balls, but he wasn't quite as on target as he has been with the deep ball. He underthrew a couple that might have been TDs with better throws. And both his touchdown throws were outstanding passes - right in stride on crossing routes."
Overall, Werner has been very pleased with the passing game to this point in the season.
"We are getting better pass protection this year, Seth has been doing a nice job with his progressions and getting the ball to the right person at the right time, and the receivers have improved as much as any unit on the team," he said.
The key against Bama's bruising herd of defenders is eliminating mistakes and playing at a higher level.
"We need to minimize our mistakes and execute. I'm confident we can do some good things on offense if we will do those two things," Werner closed. "We've been pretty good when we have done things correctly and against a defense like Alabama's, who will exploit any mistakes you make, playing a clean game is essential."
Dan Werner -
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