TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 08: Marquis Maze #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide breaks a tackle by Steven Clarke #12 of the Vanderbilt Commodores at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 8, 2011 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
"Maze, he's a leader, man," said running back and Heisman candidate Trent Richardson. "He's crazy. He's probably more like coach Saban with the short-man's syndrome a little bit. "But he'll get after you, man. He's never going to let you down. He's going full speed every play. He never takes a play off. He's going to block for you downfield. You're going to get Marquis Maze's 100 percent every game, man."
At 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, Marquis Maze is compact. He’s unquestionably fast. And apparently without fear. Alabama’s leading receiver by more than a 2-to-1 margin over second-best Trent Richardson prefers life on the edge. Crossing routes through the teeth on an opposing defense is his assignment of choice. "It’s dangerous, but I’m a dangerous player," Maze said confidently. "I’m not afraid to go in and get tackled by those guys."
It’s no secret that speed is a key to Maze having success. He said he first realized he was fast when he was a freshman in high school and got paired with an older teammate who was considered the fastest guy at Tarrant High School. Maze beat him. And no one really wanted to challenge Maze again until he got to Alabama. Javier Arenas was the first to challenge Maze. "I beat him." Then came Kareem Jackson, Terry Grant. "A lot of fast guys," Maze said. And you won all those? "Yes."
Linebacker C.J. Mosley, who missed the last two weeks with an elbow injury sustained against Arkansas, will practice today in hopes of getting back on the field next weekend. Junior linebacker Nico Johnson said he’s eager for Mosley’s return so the defense can get back to normal. "He has a lot of spots that he’s responsible for, a lot of roles in the defense," Johnson said. "It’ll pretty much get back to normal."
Defensive MVP: S Mark Barron. You couldn't go wrong with a handful of players on this defense. Outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw is tied for the league lead with 8.5 tackles for loss, and middle linebacker Dont'a Hightower leads the team in total tackles. But Barron is one of the best safeties in college football and a big reason Alabama's secondary is playing lights out right now. He's an excellent tackler, helps clean up mistakes, has a great nose for the ball and is the guy who makes it all go in the back end of a defense that gets more dominant every week.
OLE MISS WILL WIN IF: their engineering department has figured out a way to arrange for a meteor strike through, like, magnets or something. But, fine, if we're going to approach it seriously, whatever slim-to-none chances of victory the Rebels have rest on their improved defense making Alabama work for their points and possibly pulling out a game-changing turnover here or there.
When Ole Miss quarterback Randall Mackey steps to the line of scrimmage on Saturday, he'll look for Alabama's Courtney Upshaw. Upshaw could be lined up as a pass-rushing defensive end, or maybe at linebacker. Same with Dont'a Hightower. Mackey will also look for safety Mark Barron and, depending on who is in the game at the time, C.J. Mosley or Nico Johnson. "It ain't just one of them, it's all of them," Mackey said.
"This is how you anticipated it the first of the year, an offense much more together," Nutt said. "It seems like we've been just trying to find the right chemistry, didn't have a running game, didn't have a passing game, just didn't look like much of anything the first few weeks. I hope we can really build on this."
Offensive coordinator David Lee heaped praise on Alabama’s defense, like they all have this week. He said they’re looking at "tomorrow’s NFL." "They two-gap the way the New England Patriots do," Lee said. "They’re going to get of blocks and they’re going to control their gap and let those linebackers run and make tackles."
He knew the consequences of having that couple of beers, and he had them anyway. And it's the lack of control - because one has to assume that he wanted to keep playing, no matter how Spurrier might have grated on him - that requires one more serious point. I have no personal knowledge of whether Stephen Garcia is just a fun guy to be around, or whether he has a serious problem. But if there is a chance of the latter, he needs to get help. For all the jokes one can make, that's nothing to joke about. Too many lives - not just athletes' lives, not just entertainers' lives, but too many human lives - get wrecked in just these circumstances.