This game usually heavily features a slew of Alabama commits and targets, though some years it seems the Tide focuses more out of state than in it.
This time around, Alabama had a solid chunk of players invited, but a number didn’t play. Pierce Quick, Tualia Tagovailoa, DJ Dale, and Brandon Turnage were all absent for one reason or another, so the total number of players were limited— and none at any heavily featured positions.
On the Alabama team, Amari Kight played left tackle and Christian Williams played at right cornerback. Will Reichard got a good bid of camera time as the team’s kicker.
On the Mississippi squad, Byron Jones played some along the defensive line while Alabama target and 5-star linebacker Nakobe Dean was a demon in the second level of the defense.
Of the group, Amari Kight was probably the most impressive. I tried to watch him for most of the game, and he did not disappoint. On the very first drive, I saw him take a step too far outside and let his pass rusher counter back inside of him— but after that, I did not see a single other bad play. He was a monster in short yardage situations despite being so tall. He moved into the second level a few times, and pancaked some poor linebacker 7 yards down the field.
But pass protection was where he really excelled. He could drop with the speed rushers and stonewalled anyone trying to bull rush him. I even saw him rotate his man around to the inside as his QB scrambled to his left. It was an impressive performance. And all this from a 6’7” guy that is built like a refrigerator in a jersey.
DB Christian Williams had his ups and downs. Early on, he stayed stride-for-stride on a deep bomb and broke it up with his helmet (Though he never did turn around…). Just a few plays later, he very nearly had a diving interception. But then he wound up getting toasted on another deep bomb after taking a false step trying to switch from his backpedal to a run.
Speaking of, he backpedals like a safety, not an outside cornerback— something Saban will no doubt beat out of him next season.
In run support, he showed an encouraging willingness to bring a hit to blockers, rather than letting them control him. I also saw him make one awesome tackle right at the 1st down line where he hit the running back right in the thighs and brought him down on the spot. A perfect form tackle.
But then I saw him totally whiff a tackle on the sideline later in the game. So again, give and take.
Defensive lineman Byron Young was totally invisible on the defensive line. I saw him get decent penetration a couple of times, but then either overran the QB or was easily avoided. Other than that, he was totally nuetralized rushing the passer. He looked closer to 300 pounds than the 270-280 he was listed at.
Will Reichard caught the Bama kicking curse early on. Despite his lofty ratings, he missed a 41 yarder to open the game, and then never got another chance. On the bright side, he drilled all of his kickoffs into the endzone with emphatic force. He also played some punter, but I can’t see him following that route at college. His catch-to-kick time was way too slow, and I never saw one go further than 42 yards.
As for some of the other notable players in the game that weren’t Alabama commits, Nakobe Dean had some great moments. He’s about as explosive a linebacker as you’ll see. I saw him come flying in at reckless speeds to fill a hole and stop a running back in his tracks, and I saw him often being the first man down the field as a gunner on special teams. All in all, the Alabama offense seemed to avoid wherever he was on the field like a plague, so his game was fairly quiet, but he was a force whenever the ball was near.
Auburn commits Bo Nix and George Pickens showed off some impressive QB to WR chemistry early on as Pickens used his 6’5” frame to look aboslutely unstoppable for most of the first quarter. Eventually though, the Mississippi squad seemed to figure out how to cover him and broke up a number of jump balls thrown to him in tight coverage. Pickens did get a last second touchdown at the end of the game, but it didn’t matter that much as the Mississippi squad was up by 10.
Nix had moments that showcased his 5-star arm talent, but I also noticed he had a tendency to really float anything he was trying to put some touch onto. It’s the kind of throws that could get picked off a little more easily in college.
At the end of the day, it was a fairly uneventful game. I came away feeling more positive on Kight and a little down on Young, but about the same on the other guys.