Alabama's secondary regrouping after Saturday

Alabama's secondary regrouping after Saturday

September 17th, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans (13) makes a 95-yard touchdown reception as Cyrus Jones (5) can only watch during top-ranked Alabama's 49-42 win over the Aggies on Saturday.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

TIDE, TAKE THREE

• 1. Alabama has produced more NFL draft picks than any other school in the last four years (29), three years (22) and two years (17).

• 2. The Crimson Tide are 27-3 against nonconference opposition under coach Nick Saban, which includes 20 wins in a row.

• 3. Through two games, Alabama has two defensive scores and two special-teams scores.

Now it's the secondary under the microscope at top-ranked Alabama.

While the Crimson Tide's offensive line rebounded from a disappointing opener against Virginia Tech to pound Texas A&M repeatedly last Saturday, their defensive backs weren't faring as well. Alabama allowed a school-record 628 yards in outlasting the Aggies 49-42, including 464 passing yards to reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.

"We have some younger players who deserve the opportunity to play, and we're going to look at them in practice and give some guys the opportunity," Tide coach Nick Saban said Monday. "I'm very encouraged by some of the young guys we have. We've tried to play the more experienced guys in these first two games because they were tough games. Everybody has had an opportunity, so we're going to do what we would do at any position.

"We did it in the offensive line after the first game, and guys competed better. Guys need to compete better, and it's not just the corners. The safeties weren't where they were supposed to be in the game some, too. If you're supposed to be in the middle of the field, then you're supposed to be in the middle of the field."

Manziel threw for five touchdowns, with Mike Evans his favorite target. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Evans began the day tormenting John Fulton and then had his way with the other Tide cornerbacks, totaling seven receptions for 279 yards and two scores.

On the 95-yard touchdown from Manziel to Evans midway through the fourth quarter that pulled the Aggies within 42-35, Cyrus Jones was the victim.

"We wanted to put a bigger guy on him, which is why we started the game the way we started," Saban said. "We did a good job of jamming him last year and it affected him, but this year we didn't do a good job of jamming him and it didn't affect him. If we were going to play him with a smaller guy, we would want to play him in softer technique and play off of him. When we did that, he still used his body well and went up and made plays.

"The way you would ideally like to play a guy like him is to play a guy short and a guy deep. When you play split safeties against them, it's hard to manage their running game as well as their quarterback runs. The combination of those two things made it difficult to do the things we needed to do, and the things that we tried to do we didn't do very well."

Of course, not every team has a Manziel and an Evans on its roster, and certainly not this week's foe. Colorado State, which is coached by former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, will enter Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday with a 1-2 record. The Rams opened with losses to Colorado and Tulsa and downed Cal Poly 34-17 last week.

This will be Alabama's latest home opener since 1988, when it opened at Temple and then had an open date before hosting Vanderbilt on Sept. 24.

"I don't ever remember being it Sept. 21 and having practiced for seven or eight weeks and not having played a home game yet," Saban said. "We're all looking forward to that."

Yeldon apologizes

Alabama sophomore tailback T.J. Yeldon apologized Monday for making a throat-slashing gesture following a touchdown run just before halftime. Yeldon was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.

"That is not the way I want to represent myself, my family and our team," Yeldon said. "That is not the way we do things at Alabama. This is something I will learn from, and I will use better judgment in the future."

Tide tidbits

Alabama's Sept. 28 game against visiting Ole Miss will have a 6:30 EDT kickoff and will be televised by ESPN. ... Quarterback AJ McCarron was named SEC offensive player of the week Monday after throwing for a career-high 334 yards and four touchdowns against the Aggies. ... Saban said guard Anthony Steen was probable for this week's game but receiver Kevin Norwood and cornerback Deion Belue were questionable.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.