Mississippi State's Air Raid to test Christian Harris' development as Alabama football linebacker
Five games have been enough to show Alabama football inside linebacker Christian Harris has grown from his freshmen to sophomore season.
Harris has 3.5 tackles for a loss through five games compared to 7.5 in 13 games last year, has already equaled last season’s pass deflections total and notched his first career sack. With Dylan Moses at his side and with more knowledge, Harris has had moments of being in command of the defense, especially with the linemen and defensive backs on his side of the formation.
Saturday’s game against visiting Mississippi State (1-3) is an opportunity to take it a step further, to display a skill he did not have last season.
As Harris navigated his freshman season, Alabama (5-0) took dime package responsibilities away from him, using Markail Benton in his place. Harris is likely to get that responsibility on a nearly every down basis against Mississippi State’s Air Raid offense.
“I’m pretty excited about it. Lot more plays than last year when you play in dime,” Harris said. “It creates a lot of opportunities for me in our defense. Whatever it is we have to do this week, we’re going to execute it.”
Harris’ move out of dime packages last season was not a matter of skill — he is a converted cornerback and wide receiver from high school football in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was a matter of mental workload, limiting the amount of the complex scheme Harris had to understand and apply to opposing offenses.
Harris has gained enough command of the scheme to play in dime packages and even instruct the younger players around him.
“I do feel a lot more confident out there on the field now than I did last year,” Harris said. “Having Dylan Moses next to me, it kind of gives everyone on the defense a little bit of confidence because he makes all the calls for me. I just got to go out there and play football like I’ve been doing since I was 5. It makes things a lot easier for me.”
Even as a sophomore, there are players with less experience than Harris on defense, such as starting safety Jordan Battle and starting star defensive back Malachi Moore.
When they look to Harris, they don’t see a sophomore linebacker who’s spent most of his life at a different position.
“Now he’s playing linebacker and he's fit in like perfect, like almost like he's been playing linebacker his whole life,” Battle said. “We love him.”
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson