Negative plays and turnovers. Both are concepts that Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban and his compadre, defensive coordinator Kirby Smart barked about all offseason on defense.
Defensive backs coach Mel Tucker has held his end the bargain, as four of Alabama’s five forced turnovers on defense have come from its secondary. The Crimson Tide’s front seven was tabbed as the nation’s best coming into this season; however, its production has been spotty.
Junior defensive end Jonathan Allen is holding the banner high with three sacks, but the next player behind him only has one, true sophomore defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand.
Crimson Tide fans are anxious to finally see sophomore outside linebacker Rashaan Evans be loosed onto the field. At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, Evans is a freak athlete on the edge.
A former five-star prospect, Evans showed flashes of productive as a freshman last season.
He saw action in 13 games, totaling 15 tackles (12 on special teams), two tackles for loss, three quarterback hurries and a sack. His 12 tackles on kick/punt coverage tied him for first on the team. Evans was an animal during his senior year at Auburn (Ala.) High School in 2013.
He recorded 77 tackles, 43 tackles for loss,17.5 sacks, five pass breakups, three forced fumbles, a blocked punt and a fumble recovery. Outside linebackers coach Tosh Lupoi likes his energy at practice, but it hasn’t led to more time in game situations. Attention to details and eye discipline are two things Evans must improve on. The role for an edge rusher is to know when to contain the outside on run plays, versus a quick explosion in pursuit of a quarterback.
Reuben Foster, like Evans, was a household name at Auburn High School.
He enrolled at Alabama in 2013 as a five-star athlete, but needed to become more instinctive as an inside linebacker before taking the field. Foster took cues from Reggie Ragland and Kirby Smart and has greatly improved on gap assignments. It will only be a matter of time for Evans to make the same adjustment. Quick-paced offenses make it harder for rushers like Evans to create pressure on quarterbacks, but that is where critical strategizing comes in.
Alabama affected Mississippi’s quarterback Chad Kelly last week, yet it could have won the game if it secured a sack on the desperation touchdown. Players like Evans and junior linebacker Tim Williams need to be on the field, the question is when will they see an opportunity?