The Crimson White caught up with The Battalion sports editor Carter Karels to discuss this weekend’s matchup with No.9 Texas A&M. The last time Alabama made the trip to College Station, Texas the Crimson Tide won a 49-42 shootout with former Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel.
1. What kind of impact has John Chavis had on the Texas A&M defense?
1. John Chavis was the perfect hire by [Kevin] Sumlin. Chavis does not have his recruits on the roster but even so, he has completely turned them around. The schemes he brings to the table work perfectly with A&M’s personnel. Since A&M’s defense is rather small, Chavis utilizes his players’ speed to his advantage. De’Vante Harris, a senior cornerback, was stagnant and never progressed in his first three years at A&M. His improvement this year has been exponential because of this more suitable scheme, and many other defensive players are following this trend. What Chavis has accomplished in just over six months with the Aggie defense is very promising for the future.
2. Can Texas A&M slow down or stop running back Derrick Henry and which defensive players will likely be involved?
2. A&M’s kryptonite on defense is definitely the run game. But the Aggies’ poor run defense is not game-changing like it was the past three seasons. Arkansas was most successful in exposing this flaw, but A&M garnered stops when it needed them. Myles Garrett was poor last year against the ground-and-pound, but is much improved in [that] facet. I expect him to be a critical part along with the other defensive line members. The main players involved, however, should be the linebackers, Otaro Alaka, A.J. Hilliard, Donovan Wilson and the other guys that will rotate. They haven’t played up to par against the run, and Derrick Henry is a rare breed. They will certainly have to record their best performances in order to keep Henry in check.
3. Quarterback Jake Coker has a tendency to be a little careless with the football when he is getting hit. Do you expect Coker to be under pressure a lot this weekend, and who in the Texas A&M secondary can take advantage of any misplaced throws?
3. Myles Garrett is a Heisman candidate for good reason. He could seriously be the first pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. Daeshon Hall is not far off from Garrett, which is scary. So, there will be pressure on Coker all night. Coker just isn’t the stereotypical “game manager” Saban asks for. With an away crowd, the Texas heat and an NFL poised defensive line converging on him all night, Coker will need to be quick, accurate and make the necessary plays. A&M’s cornerbacks have not been tested by premiere receivers, so Coker should be hitting his favorite target Calvin Ridley early and often. Armani Watts and Brandon Williams might be the best athletes on the team, and Donovan Wilson leads the team in turnovers with three, so I expect that trio’s performance will dictate heavily on how the secondary does.
4. How has quarterback Kyle Allen improved this year, and how do you expect him to hold up against what should be the toughest defense he has played this year?
4. Since the fourth quarter of the season opener against Arizona State, Kyle Allen has been nearly perfect. Each game, he is making vast improvements. Still, at times the offense stalls and can be inefficient in the redzone, and Allen makes about two or three lousy plays per game. Alabama should contain the running game of A&M’s, but I predict that Allen will do just fine through the air. The Crimson Tide’s secondary is not too great, and the passing game for the Aggies is loaded with weapons. Chad Kelly eclipsed over 300 passing yards in Tuscaloosa, so I suspect Allen should do the same.
5. What makes Christian Kirk such a force in Texas A&M’s offense?
5. Christian Kirk is on track to be quite the player and shatter every A&M receiving record. Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital continues to ensue his trust in the freshman, and his duties increase each week with Speedy Noil being sidelined. Kirk was in the wildcat in the Mississippi State game, and is also used in jet sweeps and special teams. Kirk is not too tall at 5-foot-11, but his speed certainly makes up for it. His agility and quickness allows him to create plays in the open field, making it extremely difficult to tackle him. Not only can he be utilized in short passes and in open space, but Kirk is also a quality deep threat. He doesn’t drop many balls either. Besides a couple freshman mistakes on kick returning thus far, there aren’t many negative things to say about Christian Kirk.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports