Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Oklahoma focused on stopping Mosley
By Edward Aschoff
NEW ORLEANS -- When asked about his very first impression of Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley, Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard was as concise as he could be, sporting an ear-to-ear grin.
Butkus Award winner C.J. Mosley leads Alabama in tackles, tackles for loss and quarterback hurries this season.
"That dude's good; very, very good," Ikard, an All-American, said.
"He's obviously the most talented linebacker in the country."
Mosley, an All-American himself and the recipient of the Butkus Award as the nation's best linebacker, is quiet and gentle away from the field but a thunderous wrecking ball on it. He can cover the field from side to side, drop back to defend the pass, rush the passer and stuff the run.
He's the heart of Alabama's staunch defense and enemy No. 1 for Oklahoma's offense.
Ikard and his teammates agreed they'll game plan to try and thwart Mosley's effectiveness in Thursday's Allstate Sugar Bowl. You'd think that added attention would put some pressure on Mosley, but this is nothing new for the nation's best.
"I can't really control that," Mosley said. "I just gotta do what I have to do and make plays when my name is called."
He's made plenty of plays this year for the Crimson Tide. A year removed from leading the Tide with 107 tackles while sharing time, Mosley leads Alabama this season in tackles (102), tackles for loss (nine) and quarterback hurries (eight) as a full-time starter at weakside linebacker. He's also defended five passes and forced a fumble.
"C.J. Mosley is probably the best player we've played against this year, probably one of the best I've played against in my four and a half years here," Ikard said.
"You always have to be aware of where 32 is at."
And that isn't easy to do. He's so active that one blink and you'll lose him. But spend too much time locking in on him and you'll lose focus, making it easier to blow an assignment. It puts many offensive players, especially offensive linemen, in precarious situations.
Like a playmaking receiver who can line up inside, outside or in the backfield, you have to account for Mosley in some form or fashion whenever he's on the field or he'll make you pay.
"Your eyes are just attracted to him just by the way he runs around and makes big plays," Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight said.
"We're going to account for him like anybody else, but he's definitely a force to be reckoned with. He's all over the field and he's a great leader out there."
Despite lining up in the middle of Alabama's defense, the Tide's defensive quarterback finds ways to get to the ball, no matter where it is. He's so dangerous because he's so multitalented. He pores over extra film for hours each week, while still trying to motivate and push his teammates with his relentless practice habits.
The quiet tone and smoother demeanor he shows the media is only a small part of who Mosley is. He's an animal on the field, and the Sooners understand the challenge of making him obsolete is quite an undertaking.
"He's a great player. He won the Butkus Award for a reason," Oklahoma running back Brennan Clay said. "He's fundamentally sound, he gets to the ball, his technique is great."
But for all the good Mosley does, he admits he isn't perfect. He's actually pretty goofy in the way he looks when he plays. Though he carries an impressive, stone-like 6-foot-2, 238-pound frame, his legs can get the best of him at times with his "unorthodox" running style that gives him some awkward-looking strides when he runs. His legs sometimes get caught under him, making sprinting tough.
It doesn't impede his pursuit too much, but it does receive a few giggles in the film room from his teammates.
"I've been doing that since high school," Mosley said with a laugh.
The Sooners might have 10 other players to account for when Alabama's defense takes the field, but everyone knows the Tide's defense goes the way of its commander. Mosley is the linchpin, and disengaging his playmaking ability will go a long way for the Sooners inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.