There hasn’t been any shortage of great linebackers throughout Alabama’s storied history, and junior C.J. Mosley is well on his way to being the next one to join that group.
He leads the No. 1 Crimson Tide in total tackles with 39 and also has an interception and a forced fumble through five games. Mosley’s value goes much deeper than statistics, though. He’s asked to wear a bunch of different hats on that Alabama defense and is one of the more versatile defenders in the league.
He’s outstanding in coverage. He’s an excellent tackler, and he has a knack for making big plays.
We sat down with Mosley earlier this week for a Q&A:
When you haven’t been in a close football game for so long, really since your loss to LSU last season in the regular season, is it hard to know how much you’re progressing as a team?
C.J. Mosley: I wouldn’t say it’s hard. I’d say it’s more of a process. It’s just like when we played Ole Miss this year and got down (for 15 seconds) and allowed two touchdowns against them. That’s the first time in a while we’d done that. It’s just like coach (Nick) Saban tells us all the time. When we’re faced with adversity, how are we going to react? When that close game comes, we’ll be ready for it.
Has this team been as consistent as you’d like it to be to this point?
CJM: We’re a younger team, so the thing we still have to learn is that we need to play to our standard and not to the other team’s level. We have to play Alabama football and Alabama defense no matter who it is.
With as much success as the program has had under coach Saban, it’s almost to the point now that it’s national championship or bust at Alabama. What’s it like to play in a program that has that kind of standard?
CJM: When I was being recruited here, my thought process was, ‘I want to win a championship.’ So that’s how we practice. That’s what the coaches preach, and that’s how we basically live everyday. That’s Alabama football, to practice and play to be champions.
Is there anything that gets past coach Saban on the practice field?
CJM: Nah, he gets onto you for the little things as much as anything, and he makes sure you fix those little things. He’s a perfectionist, and that’s what makes him a great coach.
How much of a sense of urgency did you feel in terms of stepping up and being a leader at linebacker with Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw both gone?
CJM: I knew I had to be more vocal than I was the past two years here. I’m also playing a lot more this year (on every down) and am happy about that. But my main goal was to be more vocal so I could affect people both on and off the field.
What’s a must for a player if he’s going to be successful in this defensive system?
CJM: You have to be coachable and have to be able to let the little things go. Being on defense and playing under coach Saban, that’s like a two-headed monster. You’re going to make mistakes. You see some players when they first get here and they’ve got their head down and saying, ‘It’s just too hard. I can’t do this.’ But you’ve got to know that it takes time. You get your reps, and you’re going to have to mess up in practice or the games. I learned half the stuff I know now because I allowed some big plays in the games. You’ve got to learn from it and know you can’t keep doing it, and you have to mature really fast when you get here.”
Can you think back to some times when coach Saban has really blown you up for mistakes you’ve made in games?
CJM: We played Duke, and I let a wheel route go for about 20 yards, and he got onto me. But then I did it again in the Florida game, and I can tell you that I haven’t been beaten on a wheel route since.
How complex is this defense?
CJM: The thing is you have to be able to adapt. Our coaches expect us to be coaches on the field. If the offense checks, we have to check to a second play. We’ve got three calls on one play. If the offense shifts one person, we have to go to a whole different call. So we could have two, three or four calls on the same play. You’ve got to be smart, but you’ve got to be quick on your feet, too. You’ve got to be able to check and go back and check and go back. It’s basically having 11 coach Sabans and coach (Kirby) Smarts on the field.