Crimson Tide Defense Seems “Nastier” Than Last Year’s Squad
By: Larry Burton
There’s a good news / bad new situation coming out of Tuscaloosa this spring, depending on whether or not you’re an Alabama fan or one of their opponents or haters. For Tide fans the good news is that while last year’s defensive squad finished the year number in total defense among all division schools, this year’s squad could do better. I guess you figured out on your own what the bad news is for Alabama’s opponents.
While you can’t improve on being the number one unit, the Tide looks to improve on portions of that defense that need improvement. Yes the number one defense in the land has room for improvement as hard as that may be to believe and it’s in the area of sacking and pressuring the quarterback.
There have been times when Saban felt the soldiers he had in the defensive trenches didn’t have the ability to pressure the quarterback without leaving gaps a fleet footed signal caller could squirt through for a big play, so he played a “containment” defense that simply tried to keep such a quarterback in the pocket and then collapse the pocket on them. That took time, the sack numbers went down, but Saban felt a ROP (read option pass) type quarterback was going to be kept one dimensional and big plays would be limited.
But when Saban feels he has the dogs to turn loose, he will and this year’s squad is looking like the bunch he’s going to send like missiles into the offensive backfield and take down quarterbacks before they have the chance to read anything to avoid a loss. In looking at this year’s squad of linebackers and defensive linemen, the best word to describe them is “Nasty”. They are looking more and more like a take no prisoner, in your face, overpowering in both strength and size bunch of disciplined hooligans that enjoy seeing the fear in quarterback’s eyes.
In a post practice interview this week, lineback Terrell Lewis said that even though Saban had told them to take it easy on the quarterbacks, there were times when they just couldn’t help but cause coaches to flinch. One was Mac Jones being banged around like a pinball and another was Tua with his injured hand having to dive for a fumble to avoid a turnover and getting involved in a wrestling match pile.
According to Lewis, one of the nastiest was a young gun that may go from seldom used backup to perhaps a star player was second year linebacker Christopher Allen, who coaches also rated out as the the most productive defensive player.
“Chris did really well,” Lewis said Monday after practice. “He did really well just getting a good feel for things and knowing when to do stuff and when not to do stuff. He did really well with not making too many mental errors, just getting a good feel for the game and finishing plays.”
As for the entire group, Lewis said, “We looked really good. We had a lot of situations where we got off the field, played the run, played the pass and converted from run to pass situations really quickly.” He also talked about how the group meets after practice to talk about any errors and how to avoid them the next time out. He made it sound like this was a very unified squad on a mission to limit misreads and create nightmares for opposing quarterbacks.
By now, we as Alabama writers no longer have to defend the articles we put out saying the defense will be stellar despite losses to the NFL on that side of the ball. The rest of the world has finally accepted it as fact that Alabama does not rebuild, it simply reloads and that is and has always been the case on defense in the Saban era. So when I say that this squad is showing signs of improving from the defense that was rated number one last season, you can believe it.
This season’s defense will create more turnovers, sack numbers will increase significantly and all that pressure they put on opposing quarterbacks will only help a young defensive backfield as quarterbacks will be too busy running for their lives rather than trying to pick apart a newly formed defensive backfield. That’s part of the reason Saban is officially turning loose the dogs this season.
So this season, I am at least for my part, calling this the “Nasty Boy” defense and that song “Nasty Boys“. Now I just have to get with the stadium audio folks and get that one on the playlist.
Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter