Bama’s Mosley thriving as vocal leader, full-timer

Trey DePriest has been lining up alongside C.J. Mosley for the
past two seasons, but he’d never seen him quite like this.

Alabama’s normally mild-mannered All-America linebacker was
fired up after a Mississippi lineman pushed him 5 yards downfield
and onto his back at the end of a play near the top-ranked Crimson
Tide’s goal line. His reaction was a highlight of a week when the
Tide’s top defender took charge with more than his play.

This time, DePriest said, Mosley ”turned into a different
guy.” Two plays later, Mosley swatted away a fourth-down pass
headed toward the goal line late in the third quarter to squash the
Rebels’ comeback hopes.

”It got me excited, it got the whole team fired up,” fellow
linebacker DePriest said. ”He was ready to play, out there
screaming, letting everyone know what the play was. It was
good.”

It’s no surprise that Mosley has been the unquestioned leader of
the Tide’s defense since opting to return for his senior season
instead of entering the NFL draft. His fiery, vocal sides are less
often on public display.

But when the team needed a jump-start after the Colorado State
game two weeks ago, Mosley spoke up in the locker room. And when
Alabama’s defense needed that fourth-down stop, he stepped in front
of the Bo Wallace pass to a well-covered Laquon Treadwell . Mosley
later tackled Wallace for a safety.

He has stepped into somewhat new roles for Alabama, which plays
Georgia State on Saturday. Mosley has become more outspoken when
needed and showed a fiery side after Pierce Burton’s block, when a
referee had to usher him away from the 290-pound lineman.

”I heard it from a few people because they’re not used to
seeing me so amped up,” Mosley said. ”But that’s football,
probably one of the only things that will get me that hyped.”

Coach Nick Saban said Mosley wasn’t so comfortable speaking up
as a younger player. That role fell more to Nico Johnson, who split
time the past three seasons in running situations.

Even though Mosley nearly doubled up the Tide’s next-leading
tackler last season, he was never the guy in all situations.

”He plays on all downs now,” Saban said. ”This is the first
year since he’s been here that he actually plays all downs. He’s so
athletic that he’s always been a really good space player and
played really well in any kind of spread-out situation whether it
was nickel, dime or whatever.

”He’s gotten bigger, and he’s a little stronger. A little
better taking on blocks now and does a really good job playing in
regular. He’s so instinctive and so quick, he doesn’t have to
overpower people. He’s a good player in every circumstance and
every situation in the game now.”

Mosley, the SEC’s defensive player of the week after the Ole
Miss game, is definitely Saban’s kind of player. He was the guy who
kept up on Christion Jones’ 94-yard kickoff return against Virginia
Tech, even throwing the final block at the 10.

Saban praises the athleticism and talent of a linebacker who has
returned three interceptions for touchdowns, including one as a
freshman against Georgia State.

”But he’s also got a lot of true grit in him in terms of the
kind of competitor he is and how he plays,” he said. ”The guy
just doesn’t know how to take a play off.

”I don’t care what your circumstance is or whether he’s on
special teams or any role that you have for him, he’s about as fine
a competitor as anybody that we’ve had an opportunity to coach
through the years.”

Mosley has 35 tackles, 11 more than No. 2 tackler Ha Ha
Clinton-Dix. Last season, his 107 tackles were 48 more than anybody
else on the team.

Mosley topped even South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney
and Texas A&M Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel as the
leading vote getter on the media’s preseason All-SEC team. He’s the
linchpin of a defense that has allowed just a pair of field goals
in the past two games.

”He’s the glue,” safety Vinnie Sunseri said. ”He calls all
our calls, he and Trey are up front and having C.J. out there is
sort of like having that protective shield. You know if you have
C.J. out front you’re going to be OK.”