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Alabama Football 2014: Previewing the Western Carolina Defense

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Catamounts look to stop the top-ranked Tide

Coach Mark Speir's Western Carolina team will collect bumps, bruises, and $475,000 on Saturday.
Coach Mark Speir's Western Carolina team will collect bumps, bruises, and $475,000 on Saturday.
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama faces Western Carolina Saturday in a game that is all-but decided before it even kicks off. The Catamounts are a decent FCS team, having compiled a 7-4 record on the season. However, no one expects anything other than a sizable beatdown this weekend, and I won't insult your intelligence by pretending otherwise.

The Catamounts run a 4-3 defensive scheme, which can become a 3-4 in some alignments. This is similar to several other teams the Crimson Tide has faced already this season. Western Carolina has only played one other FBS team in 2014 - South Florida - which resulted in a 36-31 defeat. The Tide is the Catamounts' last regular-season opponent before FCS playoffs begin.

Standout players

Senior Christon Gill will have his number called plenty on Saturday. The 6'0", 225-lb linebacker from Bridgeport, Connecticut has amassed 203 tackles over the last two seasons, leading the Catamounts both years. Gill recorded has first interception of the season last week in the victory over VMI. Gill also has 11 tackles for loss and three sacks in 2014.

Redshirt freshman Daniel Riddle (6'1", 225 lbs) is another standout on the Western Carolina defense. The linebacker from Raleigh, North Carolina had 18 tackles against Catawba, including three for loss. His 68 tackles on the season are third on the team.

At corner, sophomore Trey Morgan is a ballhawk. Morgan has five interceptions on the season along with eight passes broken up and two fumble recoveries. Morgan was on the Southern Conference All-Freshman team last season, and he has started every game in his college career. Redshirt senior safety Ace Clark is the team's second-leading tackler with 72 on the season. Clark (6'3", 220 lbs), from Germantown, MD comes from an athletic family. His parents were both athletes at Jacksonville State, where his father played college football and his mother ran track. Caleb Hawkins, a 6'3", 255-lb junior, is a third-year starter at defensive end. Hawkins has ten tackles for loss and three sacks on the season as well as two quarterback hurries.

Summary

Western Carolina doesn't have much FBS experience, and certainly haven't played anyone like Alabama this season. This is a team that lost to Chattanooga 51-0 and to Samford 34-20. The Tide will be heavily favored on Saturday and there is little that the Catamounts can do to prevent a substantial victory. The best thing to hope for is an injury-free afternoon for both squads and liberal playing time for Alabama's reserves.