Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel spoke with Missouri head coach Eliah Dinkwitz about his experience coaching against the juggernaut Crimson Tide and what Ohio State will have to do if WR Jaylen Waddle is cleared to play in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
PETE THAMEL: We brought you on to do a little Xs-and-Os--
ELIAH DRINKWITZ: Yeah.
PETE THAMEL: --deep dive into the title game. You obviously saw enough of Alabama up close and personal, studied them a ton. I'm sure you TV scouted the Clemson game like all of us the other night, so at least you saw enough of Ohio State to have just a general feel. Give me your thoughts, Eli, on slowing down the Tide because I feel like if there's one basic thing that has to happen for Ohio State to win, it has to be some type of slowing of that offense.
ELIAH DRINKWITZ: Yeah, I mean, I think the biggest thing people miss with Alabama is the offensive line. It all starts there. Now, I don't know how much they're affected by the loss of their center. I think he was an outstanding player. He played a lot of games for them, and obviously that's a critical position as far as from communication.
But if you watch, Mac Jones plays with a clean jersey all game long. Now, he's really good at sliding away from pressure, knowing when to get rid of the football. The only time he's ever struggled is when he gets hit or has to be moved off his spot, and that really is the critical component of that game.
They're too fast at wide receiver. It doesn't matter if you try to play man or zone. They're going to run through the zone. They're going to run over the top. He's got a strong arm. He's got a big arm. He throws with anticipation. You're not going to be able to zone them up. You can't run with them long enough in man to man. It's hard to cover them. So the only shot you have, in my opinion, is to affect the quarterback.
Now what Coach Sark does a really interesting job of is he really does a great job of play actions and heavy personnels to try to add-- we call it 12 personnel but to add an extra blocker. So you're getting seven-man, eight-man protection, and you're going to get three-man routes with the tailback being the leaker late. So if you try to-- what linebackers will do is add on. Once they've see run, then they'll add on. Turns into a zero pressure. But now the tailback's leaking out late, which you saw against Notre Dame. He was getting the ball early and making some extra plays.
Again, goes back to the offensive line, what their ability to protect is. Sark has a unique ability. He gets to call whatever plays he wants because on third down he knows he's going to be able to convert because they're so good.
PETE THAMEL: So you were one of the last coaches to face Alabama with both Waddle and Smith. There's a chance Waddle comes back. I don't know--
ELIAH DRINKWITZ: Really?
PETE THAMEL: --if he's going to or not. Yeah. It's sort of-- they haven't shut the door on it. How much-- it seems silly to ask because you have two top-15 picks, right, but how much harder are they and how much better does that make Sark in terms of dialing things up when you have-- if you have both of those threats?
ELIAH DRINKWITZ: The most impressive thing about both of those guys was they both played on special teams, kickoff coverage and kickoff return. We had a coverage. We got in the red zone. We had a specific coverage where we were going to double 17 and just take it away from him and just say, hey, if anybody else gets us, that's fine, but we're not going to let 17 beat us because we thought he was the guy that Mac was going to target. We double teamed him. He beat the corner off the line, sprinted away from the safety, threw a perfect pass.
If you've got 17 and 6 out there, now that's a whole different-- that's a whole different beast. I don't know that you can play man because you can't tilt a safety one way or the other. I don't know that you can play zone because they're going to be-- like I said earlier, they're going to run through zone. And you can't play two man because then they're just going to hand off the ball to that unbelievable tailback they got.
So it's pick your poison, but I'll say this. They hadn't really fallen off since 17 didn't play, so--
PETE THAMEL: Yeah.
ELIAH DRINKWITZ: --they''ll probably be OK. But it does-- it creates an interesting dynamic of what you want to do differently for sure. And it's, again--
PETE THAMEL: Their game plan was forcing the ball to the guy who's going to win the Heisman Trophy.
ELIAH DRINKWITZ: Yeah, which we didn't do because 17 still beat the-- I mean, they both-- they both had unbelievable days against us. But we held them to 38, you know? Scored 19.