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Vanderbilt defensive lineman calls out Alabama for this week’s matchup

Christopher Hanewinckel - USA TODAY Sports

Senior defensive lineman Nifae Lealao has taken on the personality of his head coach at Vanderbilt University, Derek Mason.

During Southeastern Conference media days in July, Mason was asked about the challenge of facing Alabama head coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. 

“I like Nick Saban. I respect the way he runs his program, but our program fears no one,” Mason said.  

After upsetting No. 18 Kansas State over the weekend, the Commodores will enter this week as a top-25 team. Following the win, Lealao gave a special message to Alabama during his interview. 

“We expected to get this,” he said after defeating the Wildcats. “When you come to our house, we show you how to play some SEC ball. It doesn’t matter where you are from, you are going to know what ball we play. We’re going into next week ranked. That’s fine. Alabama, you are next. 

Lealao, a native of Sacramento, Calif., has totaled four tackles – all assisted – a tackle for loss, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry in three games. He is one of the anchors for Vanderbilt that’s helped limited opponents to 4.3 points and 198.3 yards offensively per game, while carrying a plus four in the turnover margin (five takeaways, one giveaway).  

Even with the losses of Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis on defense, Alabama returns Rashaan Evans this week and there’s a possibly of seeing outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings back. 

Jalen Hurts has the Tide’s offense rolling, and its front line under position coach Brent Key continues to make improvements. Regardless of it being a confident program at 3-0 and playing at home, questions still surface on if Vandy has the horses to run with Alabama.  

Lealao definitely thinks so, but we shall see.  

Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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