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December 30, 2013

Insider Report: Mosley gets big praise from OU coaches, players

NEW ORLEANS | Oklahoma had plenty to say about Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley, even when they clearly believe that the film says enough.

He's physical and instinctual, they'd say. One coach compared him to a future NFL hall of famer. One player said he's better than the best linebacker they saw a season ago.

"He's a fabulous, fabulous player," OU co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "I had a chance to coach in the NFL and played against Ray Lewis, and he's similar in his ability to communicate, his sense, his football senses, the way he sees the field, gets everybody lined up.

"He's a really good football player and as good a linebacker as we've seen this year, and we've got to do a great job of understanding where he's at and making sure we block him."

Said Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard, who played against former Notre Dame star and second-round NFL draft pick Manti Te'o last season.

"I'd say Mosley's probably the most impressive guy I've seen on film," Ikard said. "Obviously Te'o made some great plays, but with his combination of physicality, getting off blocks and speed, (Mosley is) extremely impressive on the tape. They're different styles so it's hard to compare them."

Mosley, the 2013 Butkus Award winner, led the Crimson Tide with 102 tackles this season. His 313 career tackles ranks him fourth in school history and he is just 14 tackles shy of the school record.

"I'll tell you what, C.J. has made me a great coach the last four years," Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said. "Certainly I've not made him a great player, he's made me a great coach. A lot of people say that the linebackers find the ball. Seems like with C.J. the ball finds him because he's always there, makes a lot of plays.

OU offensive players echoed the sentiment on Monday including quarterback Blake Bell called him "the commander" of the Alabama defense.

"It means I'm doing something right," Mosley said of all the praise. "I don't want to disappoint them in this game so I'm going to come out, the defense is going to come out and do the best we can to win."

Clinton-Dix, Pagan still undecided on future
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and defensive end Jeoffery Pagan said Monday that they will wait until after the Sugar Bowl to decide whether they will turn pro or return to Alabama for their senior seasons.

Clinton-Dix, rated the No. 18 overall player in the 2014 draft class by ESPN's Scouts, Inc., is expected to leave for the NFL. Pagan is rated as the No. 19 defensive end in the 2015 draft class by NFLDraftScout.com.

"At the end of this game I'll sit down with my folks and Coach Saban and we'll talk about it then and make the best decision, business decision," Pagan said.

Their decision to stay mum falls in line with the other potential junior draftees on Alabama's roster outside of junior linebacker Trey DePriest, who said earlier this week that he would be returning to Alabama next season. Left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, considered a longshot to return because of his projected value to NFL teams in May's draft, said he is "50-50" about coming back and will decide some time following Thursday's game.

Moving up
With the decision to return for his senior season public and behind him, junior linebacker Trey DePriest is ready for the next stage of his career.

Following Thursday's Sugar Bowl when Mosley plays his final game for the Crimson Tide, DePriest begins the move into the vacancy.

Mosley passed the torch to his fellow inside linebacker earlier this month.

"It means a lot to me, especially coming from C.J., him being the guy that he is and the role that he plays this year," DePriest said. "I'm definitely going to be ready to take on that job. I'm really going to have to because him, Ed (Stinson), some of the older guys leaving like that, it's going to be something that I have to do for the younger guys. The younger guys don't really have the experience or the stripes to step into something like that."

It's not something he's thought about, but he doesn't the transition will be difficult.

"I get a lot of respect from the younger guys," he said. "They all like me and we all get along well. It really shouldn't be too hard."

Collins 'the best DB we have out there.'
Whether Clinton-Dix decides to stay for another season or not, he believes the

Alabama secondary is in good hands with sophomore Landon Collins. He praised the starting strong safety on Monday.

"I mean he's grown up so much. If you ask me, he's the best DB we have out there," Clinton-Dix said. "He can move, he's fast, he can play linebacker, he's the best guy we've got out there between he and C.J. (Mosley) on the team."

Smart reacts to Iron Bowl ending
Smart talked through his thoughts of the ending to the Iron Bowl, calling it "surreal and sickening all at the same time." Smart said that before the field goal attempt there was discussion about tackling Auburn's Chris Davis on a potential return.

"So to see him catch it and get past that first wave, it was over (by) about the 50," he said. "And we knew that. So it went from surreal to sickening."

-TideSports.com's Aaron Suttles contributed to this report.

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Reach D.C. Reeves at DC.Reeves@tuscaloosanews.com or 205.722.0196.

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