When it comes to the Arkansas defense preparing for the No. 1 Crimson Tide this week, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron is the focal point, defensive coordinator Chris Ash said on Tuesday.
"The things I’ve been impressed with is he takes care of the football," Ash said. "He doesn’t make bad decisions, he doesn’t put the ball in jeopardy.
"I’m just really impressed with the command of the offense that he has, and the way he takes care of the ball, and the decisions he makes," Ash continued.
The senior quarterback has thrown 57 touchdowns passes to just 11 interceptions since Greg McElroy’s departure after the 2010 season.
For comparison, Arkansas’ Brandon Allen has thrown five interceptions in seven games this season, and eight dating back to the 2012 season when filling in for the injured Tyler Wilson.
But its not only the two-time national championship quarterback that impresses Ash.
"They’ve got a stable of them," Ash said of the long line of running backs Alabama can put on the field. "[Yeldon] is a great back. He’s big, physical, runs hard, but he’s not the only one … I think they’re going four or five deep."
The Tide’s top four running backs each average five yards per touch or better. TJ Yeldon leads the team in carries, yards, and touchdowns with six. Kenyan Drake is the team’s No. 2 back. Little Rock native Altee Tenpenny also has a touchdown this season.
With a talented quarterback and a stable of solid running backs, Alabama has shown to be one of the nation’s most balanced teams offensively.
"They’re very balanced," Ash said. "They can run it, they can throw it, and they haven’t had a whole lot of trouble doing either one right now."
As far as prepping for that balanced attack, senior defensive back Eric Bennett says the mood in practice has been energetic and uptempo since the loss to South Carolina.
"Everybody’s just flying around," Bennett said. "That’s the goal is to run to the ball. We like to say it’s a party at the ball and everybody’s invited."
Bennett also said the secondary is focused on the entire group of Alabama receivers and not just star sophomore Amari Cooper. "They’re all good receivers," Bennett said. "From [Kevin Norwood] to [Christion Jones], they’re all good."
The Arkansas defense also has several players returning home this weekend. Defensive linemen Trey Flowers, Darius Philon, and Jamichael Winston were all recruited out of Alabama by Arkansas.
A former Crimson Tide commit, Philon ultimately chose Arkansas over Alabama out of high school, where he was teammates with Jamichael Winston. Trey Flowers, from Huntsville, Ala., only received one offer from an SEC program: Arkansas.
"I can be motivated and prove them wrong each and every week, but I’m happy here," Flowers said of in-state schools not offering him. "I know this is where I need to be."
Philon, who expects to start in place of the injured Robert Thomas, will have his mother, father, and church pastors in attendance on Saturday.