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How Alabama Football Is Like A Mercedes Benz Plant

Rodney Garner
Photo By Caleb Jones/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee defensive line coach Rodney Garner has had as close of a look at Alabama football’s dynasty under Nick Saban as any other coach in the country.

Tennessee’s matchup with No. 3 Alabama will be Garner’s 13th matchup against the Crimson Tide in Saban’s 16 seasons at the helm. The longtime SEC assistant has done it with three different logos on his shirt. Garner faced Saban and Alabama three times while at Georgia from 1998-2012, eight times while he was at Auburn from 2013-2020 and once since returning to Tennessee ahead of the 2021 season.

Garner’s seen how Alabama’s identity has changed and he knows what makes them special.

The former Auburn defensive lineman discussed the challenges of facing Saban and the Crimson Tide while meeting with the local media Tuesday morning.

“When you’re playing an opponent like Alabama and coach Saban it don’t matter who he loses from a player standpoint or from a coaches standpoint,” Garner said. “They’re sort of like a Mercedes Benz plant. That assembly line, everything that rolls off of it is a high quality product. We’ve got to be high quality just so we can go out and compete with them.”

Garner’s teams have beat Alabama four times in those 12 tries. The stat alone is unimpressive until you consider the fact that Saban has won 88% of his games at Alabama.

The Crimson Tide could be without star quarterback Bryce Young Saturday as they reigning Heisman Trophy winner continues to work back from a right shoulder injury. If Young can’t go, sophomore Jalen Milroe will start at quarterback for the Crimson Tide.

Milroe isn’t nearly as dynamic as Young but present a number of issues with his ability to tuck the ball and run.

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So, what must Tennessee do well to compete with the Mercedes Benz football program?

“We have to be conscientious of our pad level,” Garner said. “We have to be conscientious of our footwork. We have to be conscientious of our eyes, our hat placement, pad level. That’s when all of those little things— they matter. Alabama is not going to beat themselves. You have to go out there and you have to strain and you have to play well. That’s the only way to be competitive.”

Tennessee’s defensive line has played at a high level this season after losing a number of key players from last year’s team.

The Vols’ run defense ranks second in the SEC entering this weekend’s matchup against Alabama. Tennessee also ties for fourth in the conference in sacks.

Tennessee is looking to continue that success as it faces its toughest test of the season to date Saturday.

Kick off between Tennessee and Alabama is at 3:30 p.m. ET. Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson and Jenny Dell are on the call for CBS.

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