Although they didn’t meet some of their expectations in 2019, this year’s version of the Missouri Tigers will boast a bit of a different looking team with new head coach Eli Drinkwitz at the helm.
Whenever a conference sees a new coach, especially an offensive-minded one like Drinkwitz, teams must always be on their toes and give extreme attention to detail as they prepare for the matchup. But defensively the Tigers will be trotting out a good deal of the same, which worked out rather well for them last season as they had the 14th overall defense in the country.
Throughout both sides of the ball, there will be a few players Alabama will need to be able to locate and extinguish in order to have success.
WR KeKe Chism
Some may point to new graduate transfer Damon Hazelton as being the top player on the outside for the Tigers, but a hamstring injury has hampered him for nearly all of fall camp but another transfer in KeKe Chism has caught the staff’s eye. Chism is a big-bodied wideout standing at 6-4 who can beat you physically on the inside and outside. Chism spent his first four years at Angelo State where he ranked sixth in school history in receiving yards. Although he doesn’t have experience at the SEC level he is going up against an essentially brand new Alabam secondary where sly veteran play may be able to be used to his benefit.
RB Larry Rountree
Larry Rountree is the bell cow of the Missouri offense which will need to be able to move the ball in order to keep Alabama’s high-powered offense off of the field. Although the offensive line is not the strong suit of the team, the Crimson Tide’s defense struggled last season stopping the run where they allowed over 130 rushing yards per game. Rountree averaged 5.1 yards per carry last season which will wear on any defense especially one that is trying to find itself. A healthy mix of run-pass options with Rountree having success on the ground will be able to open up the Tigers offense.
LB Nick Bolton
A huge player in its front seven, Nick Bolton had 50 more tackles last season then the second-highest count on the team. He’s all over the field and can stay on the field and cover a multitude of players as he showed last season when he ranked second in pass deflections (8) and interceptions (2). Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian had said earlier in fall camp that the team will be looking to having a more balanced attack this season and committing to the run. Negating Bolton’s impact on the game will be important for the team to have success through the air, but it will take solid run blocking and clever play-calling to work around the star in the middle.
S Tyree Gillespie and Josuha Bledsoe
The last two go together because they are one of the best safety tandems in the conference and one can’t be mentioned without the other. Gillespie and Bledsoe are two senior switch army knives who can both cover and play the run. Locating them on the football field is an absolute must for quarterback Mac Jones because the slightest mistake could result in changing possessions. Not only are the duo a fixture in the team’s pass defense, but also when it comes to playing the run. Last season Gillespie and Bledsoe tallied four tackles for loss a piece which is a fair amount considering the two operate in the defensive backfield.
*Get the BEST Alabama football insider information, message board access, and recruiting coverage today! SIGN UP HERE to unlock our subscriber only content!*
Patrick Dowd is a Reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter, via Pat_Dowd77