Previewing three matchups for the Alabama offense in the Crimson Tide's upcoming game against Texas A&M.
Norwood came up big against LSU ... again.
Alabama wide receivers 83 Kevin Norwood (6'2, 195, rJr.); 22 Christion Jones (5'11, 185, So.); 9 Amari Cooper (6'1, 198, Fr.); and 7 Kenny Bell (6'1, 180, rJr.) vs. Texas A&M cornerbacks 22 Dustin Harris (6'0, 175, Sr.); 1 De'Vante Harris (5'10, 175, rFr.) and nickelback 4 Toney Hurd, Jr. (5'9, 180, Jr.).
From the UA perspective: This much we know: Norwood enjoys playing against LSU in games contested in the state of Louisiana.
Much like the BCS National Championship Game, an injury to another receiver pushed the junior to the forefront. He responded by catching five passes for 62 yards, including three for first downs on the game-winning drive in Alabama's 21-17 win over the Tigers.
Meanwhile, Jones accounted for one of the game's biggest plays, working his way through the LSU defense for 11 yards on a second-quarter wide receiver screen that appeared doomed from the start.
Instead, the sophomore turned the play into a mini-punt return, converting a third down that set the offense up with first-and-goal from the Tigers' 7. Eddie Lacy scored on the next play, giving UA a 7-3 lead.
Unlike previous games, production from the wide receiver spots was limited to a few at LSU, as Norwood and Jones' combined total of 102 receiving yards was the extent of the output for their positions.
From the Texas A&M perspective: Between their base and nickel packages, the Aggies have worked a number of corner combinations through nine games.
In a 38-13 win over Mississippi State last week, A&M went with the three players listed above. However, in the two previous games against LSU and Auburn, Deshazor Everett, who also works at strong safety, got the start at corner.
In terms of playmaking ability, it's been a fairly quiet season for the Aggies' secondary. Dustin Harris leads the way in pass breakups with nine, while De'Vante Harris, Hurd and Everett have recorded one interception each.
While the A&M defense has given up some yards through the air (245 pypg), it has been able to get off the field, ranking first in the SEC in third down defense (27.1 percent).
Who gets the nod?: In loading up against the LSU run game, the Aggies' corners played a good bit of man coverage. The gamble paid dividends for much of the contest, as Zach Mettenberger and his receivers failed to connect on some big play opportunities before finally capitalizing in the fourth quarter.
Look for a similar approach this week against Alabama. While it ended with a bang, quarterback AJ McCarron isn't coming off his sharpest performance. It's hard to imagine the junior missing open guys for a second week in a row -- especially if Cooper is full go. Edge to UA.
Alabama running backs 42 Eddie Lacy (6'0, 220, rJr.) and 4 TJ Yeldon (6'2, 216, Fr.) vs. Texas A&M middle linebacker 11 Jonathan Stewart (6'4, 244, Sr.) and weakside linebacker 45 Steven Jenkins (6'2, 220, Jr.) .
From the UA perspective: The Crimson Tide ran for 166 yards last week at LSU, with Lacy (83) and Yeldon (76) accounting for 159 of the total. The duo shouldered the load in Baton Rouge, carrying 11 times apiece.
While they weren't exactly featured in the passing game, each made the most of their opportunities against the Tigers, working the same screen play to the tune of 47 receiving yards and one memorable touchdown on two receptions.
Assuming UA's season extends to 14 games, both backs are on pace to crack the 1,000-yard mark. Based on their current game averages, Yeldon's projected yardage total is 1,128, while Lacy is on track to rush for 1,055 yards.
Dating back to Mizzou, Yeldon holds the edge on Lacy in rushing yards (433-365) and rushing touchdowns (5-4). To his credit, Lacy continues to maintain his spot as the starter, although his tweaked ankle could lead to an expanded role for Yeldon this week.
From the Texas A&M perspective: Of the Crimson Tide's final three regular-season opponents, the Aggies will likely offer the most resistance to the run game as A&M ranks sixth in the SEC in rush defense, allowing 132.1 yards per game.
Stewart, the central figure in A&M's 4-3 defense, currently ranks second among A&M defenders with 58 stops. He'll be joined by Jenkins, a somewhat undersized yet active linebacker who ranks third on the team in tackles (52), second in tackles for loss (five) and first in forced fumbles (two).
Who gets the nod?: Stewart and Jenkins will be as effective against the run as the guys in front of them -- defensive tackles Kirby Ennis and Spencer Nealy -- allow them to be. If UA center Barrett Jones and guards Chance Warmack and Anthony Steen reach the second level with ease, it will be a long afternoon for Stewart and Jenkins.
With the Aggies committing extra defenders to the run it took some time, but LSU eventually wore down A&M in the second half of a 24-19 win. For the game, the Tigers rushed for 219 yards, an impressive performance considering that Mettenberger passed for just 97 yards. Edge to UA.
Alabama offensive tackles 71 Cyrus Kouandjio (6'6, 311, So.) and 76 DJ Fluker (6'6, 335, rJr.); and tight end 89 Michael Williams (6'6, 269, Sr.) vs. Texas A&M defensive ends 94 Damontre Moore (6'4, 250, Jr.) and 95 Julien Obioha (6'4, 255, Fr.); and strongside linebacker 10 Sean Porter (6'2, 230, Sr.).
From the UA perspective: After more than holding their own against a pair of next level ends in the win over LSU, Kouandjio and Fluker made their case for top tackle tandem honors in the SEC.
But as is the case every week in league play, another big challenge awaits, this one in the form of A&M weakside defensive end Damontre Moore, who ranks higher in the minds of some NFL scouts than the LSU duo of Sam Montgomery and KeKe Mingo.
From the Texas A&M perspective: While Moore, who leads the SEC in sacks (11.5) and is second in tackles for loss (19), is a prototype 4-3 pass rushing end, he's anything but one-dimensional.
Seldom does an end lead the team in tackles. With 69 total stops in nine game -- the same number of tackles for UA linebacker CJ Mosley -- Moore has done just that. He may line up on one side of the field, but he plays sideline to sideline.
Obioha is a true freshman who plays the strongside. For a young player being asked to start in the trenches in the SEC, he's performed well, posting 19 stops, including 1.5 for loss.
Porter will play Williams in Alabama's two tights, giving away nearly 40 pounds to the Crimson Tide's towering tight end. He'll also work inside when A&M goes to its extra defensive back packages.
Who gets the nod?: Depending on Alabama's personnel groupings and formations, Kouandjio and Fluker will take turns against Moore, with Porter and Obioha on the other side.
While the focus in pass protection will be on the edge, communication will be key, as Moore will be featured in some stunts designed to free him up inside. With Alabama's offensive line looking like a cohesive bunch, this would seem to be the right point in the season to see Moore. Edge to UA.
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