Nick Saban Recognizes Mike Leach's Air-Raid Threat for Alabama's Defense

Joey Blackwell

As is typical with Alabama football coach Nick Saban's segment on the weekly SEC coaches teleconference, the soon-to-be 69-year-old coach fielded a wide variety of questions concerning multiple topics on Wednesday morning.

First and foremost, Saban discussed what his team is currently preparing for as his team gears up to face coach Mike Leach and Mississippi State this coming Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“I think this is a real prep week for us in terms of Mississippi State has a lot of different looks that you have to prepare for offensively because of the way they play defense — lot of movements, lot of stunts up front," Saban said. "They play very well defensively. One of the top teams in the country on defense and pass defense. And obviously, their pass offense is something that’s very different from what we see on a weekly basis, so there’s some very important preparation that goes into that.

"So this is a very challenging week for us. We have a lot of respect for what these guys do on both sides of the ball. We’ve gotta keep our players zeroed in on what we have to do to have success in the game.”

While Saban and Leach are two of the most-recognizable coaches in college football, neither coach has ever played the other.

Mississippi State enters Saturday's game with a 1-4 record. Despite that record, though, the Bulldogs have put together a solid passing attack and a defense that allows their offense to be out on the field for an average of 76 plays a game.

With an offense that is averaging 386 yards per game and 5.1 yards per play, Saban is well aware of the challenge that Leach and the Bulldogs pose to his defense.

“It’s very effective and certainly something that is a little bit different than what you see week in and week out," Saban said. "I think you have to play a little bit differently against it. It’s very well-conceived. They do a really, really good job of coaching what they do, so you’ve gotta do a really good job for your players to be able to react to those things, anticipate what’s gonna happen, break on the ball, tackle well in space.

"There’s a lot of things that go into being able to play well against it because they’re very effective at how they execute it.”

So far this season, the Crimson Tide defense struggled early but has slowly but surely improved from week to week. This past Saturday at Tennessee, the Crimson Tide allowed the least yards that it has all season with 302 and also the fewest points allowed in 17.

Saban noted their progress during his call on Wednesday morning.

"[...] The secondary has made, I think, steady improvement," Saban said. "I think we make less mistakes than we made earlier in the season. But we’ll certainly get challenged this week in every way, shape and form, so it’ll be really important that we continue to develop and play well together as a unit.”

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