October 28, 2020 6:35:47 PM
STARKVILLE -- Michael Casagrande covers Alabama for AL.com. He took some time to speak with The Dispatch ahead of Mississippi State's matchup against Alabama on Saturday.
In a conversation with The Dispatch that also will appear on the newspaper's podcast, Bully Banter, Casagrande discussed the Alabama offense, quarterback Mac Jones and more.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Alabama's offense has been pretty high flying this season. This team, guided by quarterback Mac Jones, is near the top of the country in passing yardage. What's been the difference with this system and what's the difference from when it was used for Tua Tagovailoa?
A: It's not terribly different. I guess there are fewer run/pass options. Mac Jones isn't as mobile as Tua was, but he's not afraid to take off if the opportunity presents itself. There's a lot of quick slants, that's a big part of his game. He's been accustomed to downfield passing more often, he's pretty proficient throwing 30 to 40 yards downfield to a variety of targets. They're throwing the ball deep more often, and that could be a factor of what defense's are giving up. They're still running the ball pretty well, they're not hitting the home run or the big running plays, but they're proficient with 4 or 5 yards a carry. There are elements that are similar but there's some different ways they're going about it.
Q: I wanted to ask about Mac Jones specifically, how have you seen his progression from last year to this year and how has he looked to you?
A: He's been very accurate. He had one of the highest QB ratings in the country on pop passes that were easy and pretty much handoffs, but he's just been very calm. When he came in last year, he was a replacement, and now he's the guy. He was interim coach in a sense last year, and now he's the head coach. He came in the same signing class as Tua, and there were questions if he'd ever play here because he committed to Kentucky as a three-star prospect and was very much an afterthought in the grand scheme of things in the shadow of Tua. Then five-star true freshman Bryce Young came in this year and that was the talk, he'd be passed over again. But Mac pretty calmly and confidently won the job. His passing has been pretty impressive to watch.
Q: How has running back Najee Harris complemented Mac with what he gives this offense in the backfield?
A: He kind of brings a little bit of a lot. I think the biggest asset he brings is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Not just a swing pass or a screen, he can get downfield and catch the ball in space. It really forces the defenses to respect him and it really changes the math of the defense when you have to account for that.
To listen to the rest of the interview with Michael Casagrande, listen to Bully Banter, which can be found wherever podcasts are available Thursday morning.
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