We’ll start this one off frankly: While the Mercer Bears boast a solid (for an FCS squad) and unique offensive attack that could give Alabama some issues, their defense was decidedly not solid, even at an FCS level.
The Bears gave up 30 points per game, with their rushing defense being particularly susceptible. They allowed nearly 200 rushing yards per game and 30 total rushing touchdowns at 4.4 yards per clip.
Linebacker Isaac Dowling was the best player on their defense as a newcomer last season, and he led the team with 90 tackles while adding 7.5 tackles for loss and was second in the conference with 6.5 sacks. The smaller, speedy backer can blitz from anywhere and wreck a play at any given time.
His running mate is the veteran Danijah Gammage, who’s been a regular contributor at linebacker for the Bears since 2018.
Along the defensive line, end Solomon Zubairu was one of the best pass rushers in their conference, notching 5.5 sacks in a limited schedule.
Ultimately, the Bears’ front seven is undersized, but fast. They may not be able to hold up against a sustained rushing attack, but are absolutely capable of blowing up some passing plays with timely sacks, or catching a read-option type play from behind.
In the secondary, safety Lance Wise had a great debut season, finishing second on the team in tackles and adding 9 pass breakups. At corner, veteran Michael Campbell returns after tallying 60 tackles and 6 pass breakups last season.
The Bears’ passing defense was generally fairly stingy, allowing only 6.8 yards per attempt and 10 touchdowns to 3 interceptions.
Unfortunately, they are still an FCS squad, and are unlikely to be able to do very much to slow down the Alabama offense. The Tide’s offensive line will have to be careful on their blitz pickups, and the speed rushes on the edges could provide a challenge for Evan Neal and Chris Owens, but the Alabama run game should be able to do whatever they want.