Things getting testy between Alabama’s defense and receivers in fall camp?
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So far in fall camp, there appears to be a lot of fierce competition between the Crimson Tide’s secondary and its band of wide receivers. Rumors even surfaced around the internet regarding a possible scuffle between Calvin Ridley and Trevon Diggs. Putting the social media hearsay to the side, this type of competition and grit is what Alabama needs to win a championship.
Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has heard all offseason about how he and his group let a national title slip away back in January. He’s been constantly reminded on the players lost to the National Football League, and some analysts are beginning to question the savages returning.
Listed below are three reasons why the Tide’s defense is ready for this season
Bama knows what it lost
Saban can flip his remote control to ESPN, NFL Network or any other sports channel to see the Alabama players he’s graduated to the NFL. He’s done this in nine seasons since 2008; nevertheless, it has been the athletes behind the departures that emerge in the following year.
Whether it’s in business, politics, sports or life itself, people always desire to outperform their predecessors.
As good as Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams, Ryan Anderson, Reuben Foster, Eddie Jackson and Marlon Humphrey were (and they were good), guys like Da’Shawn Hand, Da’Ron Payne, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Rashaan Evans, Christian Miller and Trevon Diggs want more.
Two things will be expected defensively following the lost to Clemson: a sharper attention to details and a more evident sense of urgency. In discussing the secondary, there will be punishing tackles, more turnovers, and the fire to challenge every throw from opposing quarterbacks.
Should it desire extra motivation, Florida State offensive lineman Landon Dickerson provided bulletin board material during his interview for The Florida Times-Union on last week.
The sophomore guard said he is ‘not terribly concerned’ about playing the Tide to open the season.
“I think, honestly, we probably have a better defense than they have,” Dickerson said. “We have the athleticism and ability to beat this team.”
Before playing Ole Miss at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium last season, Rebels’ defensive lineman Breeland Speaks appeared on the Paul Finebaum show and said Mississippi “expects to beat Alabama.”
A sense of fear would come over schools that had Saban-coached Tide teams on its schedule in the past, due to the physicality and mental stress Alabama put on the opponent.
Despite losing that swagger in recent years, Dickerson’s words and Jeremy Pruitt’s strategy are the perfect formula to get this unit back into the College Football Playoff.
Trevon Diggs wants to play CB
If the competition is tough between Calvin Ridley and Trevon Diggs, then fans should be excited about the opportunity of Diggs possibly starting at left corner. Minkah Fitzpatrick has talked about moving to corner throughout the offseason, but him remaining at safety would guarantee the continuation of baiting quarterbacks into poor throws and recording interceptions.
He did not have a strong performance on A-Day, but Diggs was forced to defend senior Robert Foster: a receiver that’s finally living up to his five-star billing.
The Maryland native did well in spring ball and has been highly engaged in fall camp.
According to head coach Nick Saban, Diggs is now firmly cemented at corner and at 6’2″ he has the size and length to defend.
Cyrus Jones was not one of the better overall coverage cornerbacks in Tide football history; nevertheless, he always found a way to create an edge.
No matter if it was trash talking a receiver or bumping players around, Jones played much bigger than what his height (5’10”) indicated. Both Jones and Diggs served as receivers before getting transitioned to defense; so, they knew the route tree and when wide outs would try to work back to the quarterback.
He’s four inches taller than Jones, but Diggs’ trash talking and ability to make receivers uncomfortable is on the same level. With Anthony Averett proving in 2016 that he can be shutdown player, having an agitator opposite him bodes well for Alabama on the perimeter.
Pruitt’s aggressive style
Although he was at Alabama for the start of what has been an unprecedented run in competing for national championships under Nick Saban, Jeremy Pruitt’s attacking style did not become hands-on until he was hired as a defensive coordinator at Florida State University in 2013.
During its BCS national title run, the Seminoles allowed 12.1 points and a completion percentage of 52 percent in the 2013 season. Defensive back Nate Andrews carried a team-high in interceptions (four), while the school itself had 26 picks for 529 yards – including five scores.
Florida State was a +17 in the turnover margin and collected 35 sacks.
After doing well in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Pruitt returned to the SEC as Georgia’s defensive mastermind before coming to Alabama. He inherited an exceptional group last year, which accounted for 52 sacks, 24 turnovers (16 picks, eight fumble returns) and 11 scores.
Regardless of having more experience back on offense, Alabama’s defense is still making it difficult for quarterback Jalen Hurts and company to consistently move the ball. When you are able to get constant pressure on the passer and frustrate receivers, a defense will find itself getting under the skin of some of the best institutions in college football.
For those who thought the 2016 campaign was good, they have yet to see the latest of savagery in Tide football.
Stephen M. Smith is a managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.