BATON ROUGE, La. — You won’t see Bear Bryant’s Alabama offense Saturday night when the Crimson Tide takes on LSU. Heck, you probably won’t even see what you recognize as Nick Saban’s Alabama offense.
“It’s a spread offense,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said on his radio show Wednesday night. “You’re going to see them in the pistol, which is the shotgun with a back behind. They like to run the zone a lot, [offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin] is a great inside zone teacher.”
The inside zone, sometimes referred to as the “zone-read,” is made possible in this Alabama offense because of the versatility that freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts brings. Hurts is Alabama’s second-leading rusher with 521 yards on the year and nine rushing touchdowns, the most of any player in the SEC.
Orgeron bewared of Hurts’s ability as a runner, especially on the outside when he breaks the tackle box. But he also knows Hurts is a gifted passer.
“He has a tremendous, controlled passing game,” Orgeron said. “He can roll out, waggles, throw to the tight end in the flats, bubble screens, let his guys get in space to make plays. They can make the short pass but also throw the deep pass on you.”
Despite the dual-threat looks and the variety in the play-calling though, this still is Alabama. Derrick Henry might not be in the backfield anymore, but the principles that won him a Heisman Trophy last year haven’t wholly gone away.
“They get the ball between the middle of the tackles,” Orgeron said. “That’s really where they want to run the football. I think their backs do a great job of coming off the combination blocks. As soon as he comes off, that back hits the crease. They do a tremendous job of coaching that.”