Alabama OC Steve Sarkisian explains what makes Ohio State's defense so good, provides brief update on star WR Jaylen Waddle
When Alabama’s first Heisman-candidate wide receiver, Jaylen Waddle, went down with a serious ankle injury inside Neyland Stadium, he was replaced in the number one spot by a wide receiver in Devonta Smith who went on to win the Heisman Trophy himself. That’s the kind of depth the Crimson Tide have and as a program it sets them apart from their peers.
Alabama’s offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian surprised everyone listening at today’s press conference when he teased the possibility that Waddle could make a miraculous return for the national championship game against Ohio State. The man they call Sark was cagey with the insight, saying only that Waddle was healthy enough to practice this week.
“We’ll see where it goes from here,” said Sark, cryptically.
Beyond the possible return of Waddle, Sark spoke about the Buckeyes’ pass defense and where it might give the Crimson Tide’s super-dynamic passing attack problems to solve.
“The Ohio State secondary is very talented,” Sark said, according to a piece posted at Buckeyescoop. “The two corners have great length and they play the ball well. They can play zone or man-to-man. The key will be protecting Mac Jones so that the receivers can get downfield and then they need to win their one-on-one battles when they come.”
Alabama has the fifth best passing attack in the country, throwing for 350 yards on average every time out while connecting on 37 touchdown passes against only four interceptions for the season. While the Buckeyes’ corners might be talented, the team had an off year defending the pass, finishing up ranked 116th nationally while allowing 281 yards a game. Ohio State’s touchdown-to-interception ratio was much better, only allowing 11 touchdown passes while picking off seven balls across a seven game schedule. The corners will have to be opportunistic if they want to thwart a Crimson Tide drive or two.
The national championship kicks off 8 pm ET Jan. 11 from Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The game will be broadcast on ESPN. Whichever defense does the best work stopping an oppositional drive or two each half likely will have the best chance to win the game. Except that it’s college football, where anything can happen and likely will.