TUSCALOOSA — Alabama coach Nick Saban dislikes questions about depth charts, especially from reporters. He says the people with the notepads and laptop computers put way too much emphasis on who is listed as a starter and who isn’t.
Saban’s best argument against reading the depth chart too closely: Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley.
Mosley is listed at second team at the Will inside linebacker spot on the depth chart the Tide’s athletics communications office publishes, but he leads the team with 29 tackles. In addition, the Tide coaches have honored him as a defensive player of the week after each of the four games this season. They typically select two players apiece from offense, defense and special teams each week, and Mosley is the only Tide player with four selections.
Even though he isn’t listed as a starter, Mosley plays a lot in the Tide’s defensive schemes that feature five or six defensive backs. That’s because he is good in pass coverage and making tackles in the open field. So, if Alabama opens the game in one of those formations, Mosley actually will get credit for a “start,” which has happened three times this season.
“He’s very athletic, fast, very instinctive,” Saban said. “He’s really a playmaker type of guy as well. ... With all the spread-out formations that we’ve played against to this point, he’s had a lot of opportunities to make plays and he’s made a lot of plays.”
For Mosley, a 6-foot-2, 232-pound junior, he just wants to play. He said he realize playing time isn’t automatic. After all, he is the smallest of the inside linebackers who play regularly.
“I’m just trying to stay on the field as much as possible, and when I do, I’m just trying to make plays when I can, just to help the team, just to keep the defense going and the team going,” he said. “To be player of the week four times in a row is an honor, but that’s a thing that doesn’t bother me too much, if I do or don’t get it.”
When Mosley arrived as a freshman, he wasn’t considered a great prospect as a run-stopper. Even so, he made 67 tackles that year to rank third on the team. That total fell to 37 last year when he missed all but one quarter of one game and all of two others with a dislocated elbow.
Still, he is starting to prove his worth against the run. At least that’s what Saban said he is doing.
“He’s learned since he’s been here to fit the run a little bit better and does a good job in that regard,” Saban said.
Mosley smiled when told Saban said that.
“Well, I’ve been trying to show it since I got here, so I guess it’s starting to wear on him a little bit,” he said. “So, hopefully, I’ll stay on the field more.”
Teammate Damion Square, a starting defensive end, is fine with Mosley playing as much as the Tide coaches will let him.
“C.J. is awesome,” Square said.
“C.J. is one of those guys that I hadn’t seen before I cam here. He has great athletic ability. He escapes a lot of situations that a lot of guys can’t escape. And he does things, you know, he just pops up when the ball is thrown to the flats. ... He got recruited to come here and be a great player and he’s living up to it.”
Alabama’s coaches pick at least two players from three categories after each game for player-of-the-week honors. The players honored so far and how many times they’ve received an award:
Two: Eddie Lacy
One: D.J. Fluker, Chance Warmack, AJ McCarron, Kevin Norwood, Michael Williams and T.J. Yeldon
Four: C.J. Mosley
One: Robert Lester, Adrian Hubbard, Nico Johnson and Dee Milliner
Three: Cade Foster
Two: Dee Hart
One: Vinnie Sunseri, John Fulton, Cody Mandell and DeAndrew White
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