Defense focuses on mobile QBs, preps for elusive Kellen Mond

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Defense focuses on mobile QBs, preps for elusive Kellen Mond

CW / Hannah Saad

CW / Hannah Saad

CW / Hannah Saad

CW / Hannah Saad

In Alabama’s last game against Ole Miss, the defense experienced its toughest test of the season: protecting the field against a mobile quarterback.

In the matchup against the Rebels, freshman quarterback John Rhys Plumlee threw for 141 yards and two touchdowns. On the ground, Plumlee rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown on 25 attempts, revealing a hole in the Crimson Tide defense.

To say that the Alabama defense was surprised by Plumlee’s skills as a dual-threat quarterback is an understatement.

“I thought he was really good,” junior safety Xavier McKinney said. “I wasn’t really expecting him to be what he was and how he played, just because he was younger and I hadn’t really seen too much on him.”

With Plumlee’s numbers, the Rebels were able to put 31 points on the board, which is the most the Crimson Tide has allowed so far this season. With much tougher opponents on the docket, the defense took extra precautions when preparing for another dual-threat quarterback, Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond

Last year against the Crimson Tide, Mond found success at both passing and running the ball. He tallied 196 yards and a touchdown through the air, and when no one was open downfield, he recorded 98 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown. 

“He played really well against us last year,” coach Nick Saban said. “So we have a lot of respect for him as a player. I think that his total understanding of what they’re trying to do has enhanced his performance to some degree. I think the same receiver corps pretty much that he had a year ago, I think those guys work well together.”

Mond comes into the matchup against Alabama with solid numbers. Through five games this season, Mond has totaled 1,333 passing yards and 10 touchdowns in the air, as well as 110 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

“Kellen Mond does a really, really good job of executing their offense,” Saban said. “He’s very capable of making every throw that he needs to make as well as can make plays with his feet as a runner.”

If the Crimson Tide defense wants to have success against the Aggies’ offense, the first step of that process will be to contain Mond.

According to Saban, that process starts with player awareness and discipline.

“Players have to be disciplined in doing their job,” Saban said. “If you’re a contain rusher, you’ve got to contain the quarterback. You can’t be coming underneath. You’ve got to keep the proper leverage on the guy [and] give the opportunity to push the pocket in the middle. That’s something that we definitely have focused on and need to improve on.”

The Alabama defense is well aware of its shortcomings against mobile quarterbacks this season. While this wasn’t a glaring issue until the Ole Miss game, the trip to College Station is not only the Crimson Tide’s first game against a ranked opponent, but it is also in one of the loudest and most energetic environments in college football.

Senior defensive lineman Raekwon Davis acknowledged the threat Mond presents, especially after the Ole Miss game.

“We didn’t keep [Plumlee] contained,” Davis said. “We lost the quarterback a lot, and it will be the same this week if we don’t keep this quarterback in the pocket. [We have to] do our job or it’s going to be another problem. In the bye week, we worked a lot on attacking the pocket and keeping the quarterback inside.”

If the defense is able to create pressure on Mond, he could be forced into inaccurate throws or even poor decisions that result in turnovers. 

Additionally, containment on the defensive line is key, since allowing Mond to leave the pocket could result in another great rushing game for the Aggie quarterback.

“If you hesitate, a lot of the times that’s when he’ll get out of the pocket and start to run,” McKinney said. “I feel like it’s a huge key to it. Or if you don’t feel like you can make the play, do your job, and if you do your job, everything should be pretty successful.”