The Citadel’s option offense isn’t something most Alabama players have seen lately. But it’s something that true freshman wide receiver Slade Bolden has plenty of experience with.
Bolden has only played in one game this season but played the scout team quarterback in practice this week, mimicking the Bulldogs’ offense. He was a high school quarterback who ran a similar system at West Monroe in Louisiana.
“He played a similar kind of offense in high school,” coach Nick Saban said of Bolden. “I think that’s one of the most difficult things about playing against this. It happens so much faster in the game than whatever you can duplicate in practice. You have big splits to deal with, you have traps, you have all kinds of different… The fullback gets it so much faster than we can duplicate in practice. The quarterback is so much quicker to get the ball to the perimeter.”
Saban said earlier in the week that one of the challenges of preparing for an offense like The Citadel’s is teaching the scout team how to execute it well enough to give the first and second team defense an effective look in practice. Alabama spent some time in practice on the option in fall camp and again during the open week at the end of October, but that’s no substitute for seeing it in live game action.
“A couple of things: hard to get a good look in practice, because the people that are trying to do it for you don’t ever do it; and it’s hard to get the reaction and the speed of the game, whether it’s how fast the dive hits or how fast the ball gets on the perimeter or how they block their plays and get effective looks at that,” Saban said. “So it’s not only difficult from a defensive standpoint, it’s difficult from the defensive players a look that they can see from the speed standpoint when the game comes.”
The Citadel is 4-5 overall but has won three of its last four games and has scored 21 or more points in eight games this season. Quarterback Brandon Rainey, whose part Bolden is acting in practice, has rushed for 405 yards and two touchdowns in the last two games and thrown for another touchdown.
“The guy is really, really a challenge,” Saban said. “Slade is a little bit like that. At least, I think we’re getting a decent picture on the perimeter.”