Tide prepares for challenges on the road
Saturday will be a transition in many ways for the Crimson Tide. Not only will this weekend’s trip to Durham, N.C., be the team’s first road game of the season, but there will also be a difference in the plays the defense will have to defend.
The Duke offense offers a completely different game plan than last week’s game against Penn State, as head coach David Cutcliffe’s offense is geared more directly to the pass.
“I think it is always evident that the quarterback [in David Cutcliffe’s offense] is really in command of the offense,” said head coach Nick Saban. “You very seldom see the quarterback lose focus, lose poise or not be able to execute.”
Some see the game as a stepping-stone for a young Alabama secondary who has yet to face an offense with as formidable of a passing attack. Against Duke, the Tide defense will be given an opportunity to show that it is able to stop the pass as well as the run.
“It really isn’t a big transition for us,” junior defensive back Dequan Menzie said. “We go against our offense and they pass every day. We are prepared.”
The Alabama secondary is not the only part of the Tide’s defense that will have to adjust to Duke’s passing game. Junior linebacker Dont’a Hightower said the game gives him the opportunity to work on different skills.
“I guess with Duke it’s kind of one of the things I’ve been trying to work on in the off-season, which was my coverage skills,” Hightower said. “You’re coming up against teams who are going to try to do things that they think that you are not able do. Hopefully that work in the off-season will come out and help me out on Saturday.”
One standout on the Tide’s defense has been safety Robert Lester, who in two games has compiled two interceptions and forced three turnovers.
“Robert has done a nice job for us,” Saban said. “He has played well in two games. He is feeling a lot more confident, and he is communicating better. He is not a guy that makes a lot of mental errors.”
One benefit the Tide will have on its side is the return of junior defensive lineman Marcell Dareus. The highly acclaimed defensive end has served his two-game suspension, and teammates are looking for Dareus to step in and become a force in the defense.
“Having that extra anchor in front of me, I know he’s going to be there to stop the run,” Hightower said. “Having Marcell is only going to improve our run defense, hopefully teams are going to try to pass the ball a little more and that is where the pass rush comes in.”
Also returning to the Tide’s lineup is Mark Ingram, having returned to practice this week after a knee injury before the season opener.
“Mark is doing extremely well; he hadn’t had any issues or problems and has done quite a bit in practice,” Saban said.
It appears Ingram hasn’t lost a step, as the defending Heisman winner is already making defenders miss in practice.
“You would think that after surgery he would loose a cut or something like that, but he kind of left me hanging,” Hightower said. “He kind of shook me a little bit then gassed me for about twenty yards.”