Alabama’s Dime package has seen some changes in this young season. The versatility of defensive backs Patrick Surtain II and Xavier McKinney allow the UA football team to rotate the likes of Shyheim Carter, Jared Mayden and Jordan Battle into advantageous spots.
This week’s change was in the front, and one that could be seen more in the weeks to come.
Consistent with the personnel used in practice throughout the week, UA used Anfernee Jennings as the second linebacker in its Dime package, alongside freshman Shane Lee, Jennings taking the place of Christian Harris. It added even more responsibility to Jennings’ already significant role in Alabama’s 49-7 win over Southern Miss.
“We got confidence in Christian Harris, I thought he played better today,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “He just played in Nickel, we played a lot of Dime today when they were in four wideouts. Part of the reason for that is so it minimizes what he has to prepare for and what he has to do in a game. I thought he did a much better job today.”
Jennings had five tackles, one of them for a loss, the sack that forced an intentional grounding penalty and ended the Golden Eagles’ second possession.
Jennings already occupies a prominent role, being a veteran presence on a line that started two freshmen (D.J. Dale and Justin Eboigbe), in addition to using a sophomore (Phidarian Mathis) and a freshman (Byron Young) as its first substitutes.
Jennings did have one poor moment in coverage, when he tripped covering a wheel route from Southern Miss running back De’Michael Harris that was ultimately a 37-yard completion, by far the longest play UA allowed.
It’s moments like those that cause defensive back Xavier McKinney to joke, “We try to get him out of coverage.”
But in sincerity, McKinney knows Jennings can fit the job, if he’s forced to fit it going forward. His body (6-foot-3, 259 pounds) may not fit the task as well as Harris’ (6-foot-2, 244 pounds), but Jennings is more than willing and able to take on the new responsibility.
“For his size though, for real, he can move,” McKinney said. “He’s pretty good in coverage. We don’t catch a panic attack when he’s out there in coverage. We let him do his thing every once in a while.”
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or email@example.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson