In 2018, Alabama football’s offense shattered records and re-defined what many observers though a Nick Saban-coached attack could be. The player most credited for that transformation was obviously quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
But another key piece in that change was wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, an All-American who took home the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver. And for South Carolina’s much-hyped sophomore cornerback duo of Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu, Jeudy will represent arguably the toughest matchup they’ll face all year.
“He’s a good playmaker, good speed, runs great routes. He won the award for a reason, so it’s gonna be a great matchup,” Horn said.
Through two games this season, Jeudy has already put up huge numbers — 18 catches for 240 yards and four touchdowns. He’s second in program history with 20 career touchdown grabs, and he’ll most likely be a first-round NFL draft pick in 2020.
Horn says, though, that he’s not just unafraid of going against Jeudy — he’s looking forward to it.
“As a competitor, you always want to take on the best, just to match yourself up against them, so as a competitor you gotta want that matchup,” Horn said.
Coach Will Muschamp joked that in his playing days at Georgia, he didn’t have that same mindset as a former walk-on safety. But he “absolutely” sees Horn and Mukuamu’s enthusiasm for the challenge of playing Jeudy and the rest of the Crimson Tide receiving corps.
“You want to go against the best, that’s why you want to come to a place like South Carolina and week in week out, you’re on the best stages in college football,” Muschamp said.
In addition to Jeudy, Alabama also features sophomore Jaylen Waddle, who’s gone for 142 yards on seven catches this year, and junior DeVonta Smith, who has 101 yards on 10 receptions and a touchdown.
And as Horn noted, having a QB like Tagovailoa slinging passes to those receivers makes things all the more difficult. In particular, the signal-caller’s ability to escape pressure and give his wideouts time to get to open puts even more pressure on secondaries.
“Just stick to our man, have good eyes on the back end. They run a lot of double moves, have a lot of speed outside, and like I said, Tua extends plays, so sticking to your man, finishing the whole play,” Horn said of the keys for Saturday.
Given how much more man-to-man defense South Carolina wanted to play entering the season, chasing and covering up Jeudy for lengthy plays will be a challenge for the Gamecock defensive backs.
Who: Alabama at South Carolina
When: 3:30 pm Saturday, Sept. 14
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia
Line: Alabama by 25.5