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Nick Saban defends Pete Golding on the job he’s done at Alabama

Marvin Gentry - USA TODAY Sports

In a season where Alabama’s offense is totaling astronomical numbers and creating history, supporters of the program have looked at its defense with frustration. It is not the same as it was in Nick Saban’s earlier years and while it is not terrible, fans desire the best of both worlds. 

Some chants of “Fire Pete Golding” started on social media, following the Crimson Tide’s victory over Mississippi.

Regardless of it being assisted by a muffed punt, a late garbage touchdown and an athlete at quarterback with 4.4 speed, it was not acceptable for those at Bryant-Denny Stadium to watch the Rebels record 31 points on a Saban-coached unit. 

Prior to the start of the year, Alabama was set to have an incredible defense. 

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With Lyndell “Mack” Wilson gone, Dylan Moses emerged as the captain at middle linebacker and Joshua McMillon was his partner at weakside linebacker. Pete Golding planned everything out with Moses in mind, so it bothered him to find out his leader was injured in fall camp. 

Before the Louisiana native suffered a season-ending knee injury, McMillon had a scary fall during the team’s final preseason scrimmage. He was diagnosed with a serious knee issue and had to miss the final year of eligibility he had left. The Tide was down two players that not only had experience on the field, but both Moses and McMillon were really good at teaching others. 

Because of this, Golding has endured double duty. 

He took on the task to coach, scheme and teach. The 35-year-old has been cautious of not putting too much on two true freshmen – Shane Lee and Christian Harris – who had to emerge as starters at both inside roles at linebacker. Along with this, he’s also had to catch guys such as Brandon “Ale” Kaho and Markail Benton up to speed in their return from injuries or personal matters.  

People wondered why Alabama did not land a bigger name at defensive coordinator, but the biggest mind in college football – assistant coach wise – has a group that’s below Golding’s output in scoring defense.

Dave Aranda is in his 14th season as a coordinator and fourth year with Louisiana State University, operating at assistant head coach/inside linebackers’ coach. 

After signing a four-year contract in 2018 that was worth $10 million guaranteed, Aranda was regarded as the highest-paid assistant coach in the sport. His Tigers this season are 40th in scoring defense, allowing 21.2 points per game. LSU gave up 310 passing yards and three touchdowns to Kyle Trask, Florida’s backup quarterback and probably would have lost the matchup if not for an interception. Alabama stands at No. 14 in the nation in scoring defense, surrendering 17 points per game and it would be less than that if not for a few mistakes. 

When it comes to third down defense, the Tide gets opposing offenses off the field at a better percentage (34.1%) than both LSU (34.4%) and Florida (34.4%). Even with it allowing 336 yards per game, Alabama has two games coming up where that number can shrink. 

Through what he’s endured, Saban said Golding has done a good job. 

Due to the absence of a few veteran players, Golding has had to have the patience to mentor individuals who probably were not ready to immediately contribute as starters. 

“I think he’s been put in a really, really difficult situation,” Saban said. 

“The older players always helped the younger players tremendously. The guys that have been playing and have knowledge and experience, they set a good example. They help the guys and teach them how to understand concepts from a player’s standpoint. Dylan Moses was really, really good at that. He was really good for the young players and what Pete has been sort of… once Dylan got hurt, we really don’t have an experienced player at that position. We don’t have that guy that can be a mentor to the young guys to help them develop and Pete has had to do that from scratch on his own. I think he has done a really good job with those guys and has more patience then I do.” 

Jeremy Pruitt, head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers, even complimented Golding on his efforts in the SEC Coaches Teleconference on Wednesday. The former Saban assistant will face the six-time national champion and Golding this weekend. As for the players, they have a high respect for Golding and feel that he brings an ‘excitement’ to the team that it needed.  

Last week, Alabama took a step forward with its pass rush. 

It sacked Kellen Mond of Texas A&M five times. A healthy Terrell Lewis and Anfernee Jennings gives the Tide rushers on the edge. The emergence of Christian Barmore presents an inside rusher and fans are still waiting on Raekwon Davis to become more aggressive. 

This bunch is one that feasts off being doubted and underestimated. 

It’s heard all season about the groups that are better than it and it’s simply gearing up for an opportunity to strike. Part one of the reckoning begins Saturday versus the Volunteers. 

An LED lights show and a mad defense… Tide fans, welcome home. 

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

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Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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