5 impact players to watch in the Alabama-Charleston Southern matchup
The Buccaneers may be in the FCS, but they are one of the best in the FCS, and No. 2 Alabama will not be getting a free pass.
Even head coach Nick Saban knows No. 9 Charleston Southern could give his Tide trouble.
“They’re ranked in the top 10 in almost every category, one of the top defenses in that league, as well as very productive offensively with a different style of offense than what we’ve played against,” Saban said. “A lot of option, split-back kind of options that we have not played against.”
Charleston Southern doesn’t just have one of the best defenses in FCS, the Buccaneers are No. 1 in total defense.
And the Buccaneers offense will also present a challenge for the Tide, especially when you consider that Alabama has been known to struggle with some of the unfamiliar FCS offenses, although the Tide has improved significantly as of late.
Here are the five players to watch as Alabama faces Charleston Southern at home in Week 12.
1. Alabama QB Jake Coker: Coker will be going up against the best defense the FCS has to offer, so he’ll need to step up his game, because a 60 percent completion rate like he managed against Mississippi State won’t get it done. The Buccaneers may not bring an SEC-caliber defense, but they will present a defense that is unfamiliar to the Crimson Tide.
Charleston Southern only allows 151 yards per game and its defense has seven picks on the season, so Coker must be smart every time he throws the ball. Preparation will be key this week.
2. Alabama CB Minkah Fitzpatrick: Early in the week, it looked like backup CB Tony Brown would be starting for an injured Fitzpatrick in Week 12, but now it appears Fitzpatrick will be healthy enough to take the field against the Buccaneers. Fitzpatrick has been a key piece of the Alabama defense all season, collecting 39 tackles and two interceptions for touchdowns.
But if his ankle is still giving him trouble, Brown would need to be able to fill his shoes. Brown hasn’t had a lot of playing time this season, but when he’s on the field, he’s consistent, getting one or two tackles in each game, and last week, he also deflected a couple of passes.
3. Alabama DE Jarran Reed: LB Reggie Ragland will always be an impact player and the defensive leader for the Tide, but he’s not the only one that makes a difference.
The Tide defense needs to put pressure on the quarterback and running backs this week. Reed leads the defensive line with 45 tackles on the season, but he had an off week against Mississippi State. He’ll need to return to form this week in order to keep the Buccaneers offense contained.
4. Charleston Southern QB Austin Brown: Brown is just 103 of 183 for 1356 yards this season, but he’s a competent quarterback, and he presents an unknown threat to the Tide. If Alabama isn’t ready for him, it could be down early.
“He’s a very athletic guy that can run, as well as a good passer,” Saban said. “This is going to be a challenging game for us from a preparation standpoint.”
5. Charleston Southern RB Darius Hammond: The Buccaneers also have a top rushing offense, ranked at No. 13 in the FCS. Hammond is the leader of that offense with 120 carries for 734 yards and 6 TDs, 8 receptions for 90 yards and 2 TDs, 14 punt returns for 217 yards and 16 kickoff returns for 343 yards.
Once the ball is in his hands, Hammond is hard to stop, so if he can get past the Tide’s dominant defensive line, he’ll have the chance to keep Charleston Southern in the game in a big way.