Previewing three matchups for the Alabama defense in the top-ranked Crimson Tide's upcoming meeting with Western Kentucky.
Adrian Hubbard's versatility will come in handy against WKU.
1.] Alabama outside linebacker 42 Adrian Hubbard (6'6, 248, rSo.) and safeties 3 Vinnie Sunseri (6'1, 215, So.) and 37 Robert Lester (6'2, 210, rSr.) vs. Western Kentucky tight ends 82 Jack Doyle (6'6, 253, Sr.) and 88 Tim Gorski (6'7, 253, rFr.).
From the UA perspective: The last time the Alabama defense saw an offense that features a two tight end set was in, well, August. Given the schematic similarities the WKU and UA offenses share, this week shouldn't be a tough prep from an assignment standpoint for the Crimson Tide defense.
Hubbard and jack linebacker Xzavier Dickson will find themselves working against Doyle and Gorski in the run game and they'll likely be asked to help in pass coverage more than usual. Like UA tight end Michael Williams, Doyle will flex out on occasion and work the corner and seam routes, which will bring Alabama's safeties into the picture.
From the Western Kentucky perspective: Doyle's not on the same level athletically as Coby Fleener, but he's the closest thing the Hilltoppers have in an offense that WKU head coach Willie Taggart worked in as an assistant at Stanford. The two-time Makey Award watchlist member caught five passes for 44 yards in the Tops' 41-9 loss to LSU a year ago, respectable numbers considering the opposition.
Who gets the nod?: It will be interesting to see how Alabama deals with Doyle in the passing game, especially since some of the prime candidates to cover him are new to Alabama's starting lineup. With that in mind, it's reasonable to think that WKU quarterback Kawaun Jakes will look to Doyle from the outset of Saturday's game. Chances are Jakes, now in his fourth season as the starter, will need to because the WKU ground game will find the sledding to be a tad rough. Edge to UA.
2.] Alabama outside linebackers 47 Xzavier Dickson (6'3, 262, So.) and 42 Adrian Hubbard (6'6, 248, rSo.) vs. Western Kentucky offensive tackles 75 Seth White (6'5, 291, rSr.); and 52 Cameron Clemmons (6'6, 305, rSo.).
From the UA perspective: While Jakes (6'3, 194) can make plays with his legs, he's not enough of a running threat to warrant the same throttled down pass rush we saw from the Crimson Tide a week ago. Depending on their tight end responsibilities, Dickson and Hubbard should be able to provide more of an up the field rush than a week ago. The same can be said for defensive ends Damion Square, Ed Stinson and Quinton Dial.
From the Western Kentucky perspective: After making five starts at right tackle a season ago, Clemmons made the move to left tackle. He split time at right tackle in 2011 with White, who started the first four games of the 2011 season before being replaced by Clemmons.
Who gets the nod?: For Western Kentucky, the problem with sending tight ends and running backs out into the route is that Clemmons and/or White will be left alone to deal with edge rushers. In addition to keeping a tight end or back in to help with pass protection, look for the WKU offensive staff to move Jakes away from the rush, giving him some easier throws in the process. Edge to UA.
3.] Alabama linebackers 32 CJ Mosley (6'2, 232, Jr.); 33 Trey DePriest (6'2, 245, So.) and 35 Nico Johnson (6'3, 245, Sr.) vs. Western Kentucky running backs 34 Keshawn Simpson (6'0, 237, rJr.); 5 Antonio Andrews (6'0, 211, Jr.); and 33 Leon Allen (6'0, 235, Fr.).
From the UA perspective: WKU's tight end heavy attack should mean plenty of snaps for Johnson, whose primary role is that of a base defender. In fact, depending on the status of DePriest's injured ankle, Johnson and Mosley might be asked to take on every down roles this week.
From the Western Kentucky perspective: Like Alabama, the Hilltoppers like to work the power running game, an approach that comes through in the size of their backs. With Simpson hobbled by a knee injury, Andrews might be in line to start against the Crimson Tide. While Andrews has the edge in experience, much of the preseason buzz centered on Allen, a tank of a true freshman who rushed for 93 yards and a touchdown against Austin Peay a week ago.
Who gets the nod?: It remains to be seen if WKU's running back-by-committee approach -- two cents to ABC sideline reporter Heather Cox -- will effectively fill the void left by Bobby Rainey, the school's all-time leading rusher who recently made the Baltimore Ravens' 53-man roster. As far as the ground game goes this week, the biggest challenge for the Tops will be up front, where UA holds a sizable advantage in the talent department. With rushing yards hard to come by, look for WKU to work the screen and swing game to the backs, something the Alabama defense will see from Arkansas next week. Edge to UA.
Also see: TRips: Three matchups for the O