The forgotten challenge

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The Alabama defense is lighting up opponents week after week, which has left their offense in the shadows, but the Tide don't just know how to stop the football, they know how to move it too.

The Crimson and White rank third in the Southeastern Conference averaging 40.5 points per game. One of their more dangerous attacks coming on the ground, where runners Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake are averaging 6.8 yards per carry and have combined for 15 touchdowns.

"Offensively they are a very good football team," Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri said Wednesday. "They are a team that runs the football and you better stop the run. They are very big up front and very strong.

"Their running backs are extremely explosive. You have to be a sound defense. They play extremely hard and then with the play action game they try to beat you over the top. There is a reason why they are No. 1 in the country."

And as talented as the Tide are running the football, they are statistically mistake-free through the air with quarterback A.J. McCarron, who has attempted 132 passes without a single interception. McCarron boasts 12 touchdowns and 1170 yards through six contests.

"They have a good signal caller and they have a good offensive line. A.J. doesn't get pressured a lot and they throw safe patterns," Tennessee cornerbacks coach Derrick Ansley said. "They don't ask A.J. to go out there and throw it 40 times a game. He is going to throw it 20 or 25 times, he going to take the check down and take the flat routes. He is going to manage the game."

Luckily, Ansley was able to see sophomore corner Justin Coleman grow up in front of his eyes Saturday night in Starkville, Miss. The Brunswick, Ga., native had nine tackles and more importantly two pass breakups at No. 18 Mississippi State.

"He played well," Ansley said of Coleman. "Can he play better? Absolutely. He has a high ceiling and he is just a true sophomore. He played really well with his hands. I think that is overlooked fundamental with corners. He played with a lot of toughness and it means a lot to him."

The Tide will march out freshman wide receiver Amari Cooper, who could be their most talented since first-rounder and Atlanta Falcons star Julio Jones. Cooper has 21 catches for 263 yards and three touchdowns in 2012.

Senior corner Prentiss Waggner will be crucial in defending the passing attack Saturday night in Neyland Stadium. And he will have to bring it a bit harder in the second half of the season to help the Vols make game-changing plays.

"Prentiss can play a lot better than he is playing," Ansley said. "I expect him to play better and his team needs him to play better as far as making big plays.

"He does a good job of executing his assignment, doing his part and making the plays that he is suppose to make, but the elite players and the dynamic players are the ones that overlap and do more and he can do that. We need him to do that more in these last six games."

Watch as defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, assistant coaches and select players addressed the media:

Sal Sunseri

Derrick Ansley

Darrington Sentimore

Curt Maggitt

Herman Lathers

Willie Bohannon

Daniel Hood

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