After refuting talk Monday that Alabama is a “heavy favorite” against Middle Tennessee State this weekend, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban took the time to better explain his reasoning Wednesday.

Because like the majority of teams, many of whom are on the Crimson Tide’s schedule, the Blue Raiders play an uptempo, multiple-style offense that has given Alabama trouble in the past.

“I think conceptually they're one of the most difficult offenses that we play to defend,” Saban said. “They're very, very well coached. They do a really, really good job of using personnel. They don't just use four wideouts, but they use three wideouts, a tight end, they use two backs and three wideouts, they use regular.

“So there’s a lot of multiples, there’s a lot of formation adjustments. They really do a nice job in the passing game of trying to see what you’re in defensively, whether they use Nike checks or hard count to get the defense to show itself, and then try to try to call a play to beat that. There’s a lot of challenges in playing this team, and I think their players do a really good job of executing.”

On offense, Middle Tennessee State has a first-year starting quarterback, redshirt freshman Brent Stockstill, the son of Blue Raiders head coach Rick Stockstill. Running back Shane Tucker, one of the team’s leading rushers last season, returns as starter, along with redshirt senior wideout Ed’Marques Batties.

Last week, the Blue Raiders compiled 633 total yards of offense (351 passing, 282 rushing) in a 70-14 win over Jackson State. Brent Stockstill went 23-for-29 passing with 336 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Tucker gained 106 yards of offense, including a 12-yard touchdown reception. Batties caught eight passes for 123 yards and two scores.

When asked if the Middle Tennessee State was similar to any teams Alabama has played in the past or later this season, Saban mentioned Ole Miss and Auburn. The Crimson Tide hosts the Rebels next Saturday at home in its Southeastern Conference opener.

“Their running game is really a lot of wide zone,” Saban said. “I mean, they're really trying to stretch the gaps with big splits, running wide zone plays to spread the defenders out, try to get a crease. They're pretty effective. They're very effective offensively.”

Saturday’s contest between the Crimson Tide and Blue Raiders is scheduled for 3 p.m. The SEC Network will carry the game on television.

Sims closing in on 100 percent

Alabama sophomore wide receiver Cam Sims, who tore his ACL in the spring, but has since returned to game action, seeing the field against Wisconsin last week, isn’t yet at full strength.

But he’s getting “closer and closer.”

“Is he 100 percent yet? I think he's healthy,” Saban said Wednesday. “I don't think he's been able to put enough work in to get back 100 percent. But he's getting closer and closer, and we're very encouraged with the progress that he's made to get to where he is right now.”

Despite tearing his ACL in late March, Sims has practiced with the team since the first start of Alabama’s fall semester, which began on Aug. 19. Sims wore a black, non-contact jersey in practice during the first few weeks after his return but has since returned to a normal team jersey.

“The plan for him is we’re not trying to throw him totally into the fire,” Saban said. “We got a plan where he gets so many reps per day, and we’re trying to increase that on a weekly basis by maybe 10 percent or so, in terms of how many reps he gets.”

Sims did not record a reception in the 35-17 win over the Badgers.

Sims, from Monroe, Louisiana, was listed as a co-starter with freshman Daylon Charlot behind ArDarius Stewart, the Tide’s starting “Z” receiver. Last week, Saban announced Sims had been cleared by the team’s medical staff to play against Wisconsin but was unsure at the time if he would be used in the game.

Chris Black’s kickoff return, explained

Alabama won comfortably in last Saturday’s win over Wisconsin, but, like in any game, the Crimson Tide committed a few errors.

Among them? Chris Black taking a knee on his own 7-yard line after running a kick return out of the end zone late in the game after Wisconsin’s final touchdown.

Days after it occurred, though, Saban, though, offered some insight as to why that occurred.

“It wasn’t all Chris Black’s fault. It was our fault as coaches,” he said. “We have not gone over that situation with him, where there was more than two minutes to go in the game.”

Alabama was lined up in preparation for an onside kick, as Wisconsin had just cut the Crimson Tide’s lead to 18 with 4:42 to go. Black was the lone man deep, waiting for the ball in case the Badgers elected to kick it deep, which they did.

Saban and Black had a conversation on the sideline after the play, which Saban described not as a “bad conversation,” but as a “teaching moment.”

“It’s unfortunate that it happened, but we’ll take the blame for that one,” Saban said.

 

Watch Wednesday's player interviews below: