When you think Alabama football you think Bear Bryant, lots of (questionable and real) national championships, SKYNYRD, back tats, hounds tooth, Bear Bryant, beat up trucks spray painted crimson, COPENHAGEN STRAIGHT FINE CUT... I think I can probably let you name some more things but we'll be here all day.
Most of these things are still thought of under Nick Saban, but one thing that is most notable under him is the linebacking corp that he never seems to let up on. Every year another linebacker or two is thrown onto an NFL starting lineup and every year there's two more just like them back out on the field. 6-2 250 or so is the lab-made freaks that Saban produces underneath the confines of Bryant-Denny in his secret lair.
This season, two of the top linebackers in the nation stand tall on the defense in C.J. Mosley and Nico Johnson. The two have combined for 77 of the Tide's tackles this season and are number one and two on the team and those tackles. Mosley has been the clear cut leader in the SEC at linebacker posting 2.5 sacks and an interception.
But those are just the names that we all know. Not many people are talking about guys like Trey Depriest or Adrian Hubbard. You see, that is what you get with this Alabama team. They don't stop at one or two players at each position. There are players just like the media grabbers that are waiting in the wings for their turn.
Depriest and Hubbard come into Saturdays game with actually more productive stats than Mosley and Johnson. Hubbard has racked up 3.5 sacks, leading the team, while Depriest has added 3.0 tackles for a loss.
The thing that makes this team so very dangerous at linebacker is the fact that they cover the field east and west better than anyone in the country. That means: no options, no stretch plays, no sweeps. There's very little you can do against this defense and it's because the linebackers have as much of a stranglehold on you as the massive defensive line. Once you get past the lineman, you have to take on the linebacker and it's very rare to come out on top in that matchup.
The skill that these linebackers show in coverage is what puts the icing on the cake of a great corp. Mississippi State will need some big plays from their tight ends in this one.
Benardrick McKinney, a freshman of the week already this season, has been the surprise around the SEC's young linebackers so far. We all knew what to expect during the summer, but very little had been seen. All of that has been put to rest as McKinney has already totaled 55 tackles and 2.5 losses. Cameron Lawrence has had his fair share of good ballgames against the tide, as has Deontae Skinner.
Lawrence intercepted a pass last season that nearly went for six before he was caught from behind and the Bulldogs were not able to capitalize. A play like that might be vital Saturday, and this time he will need to reach pay dirt.
The Coldwater native and defensive leader, had a nice ballgame against MTSU with a big sack, fumble and recovery all in one play showing the impact that he has on the field.
With Skinner's bulk and speed, there is a little bit of an advantage just like on Bama's side of the defense. Matt Wells will also need to be counted on this week as all hands will be on deck.
Who will come out on top in this match up? I believe this will be THE most important part of the ball game and the one who has the more dominant game might be the winner of the contest and have the best path for Atlanta.