When asked about Alabama’s defense in the 2020 season, Nick Saban’s response was both eye-opening and frustrating.
“We are an okay defense. We are not great. The offense carried us.”- Nick Saban
Even with college football changing, hearing that response from Saban did not feel right. He wants to return to having a group that’s consistently able to stop the run, pressure quarterbacks, create turnovers and get off the field on third down.
The good news for him is that next season’s unit will have to provide it.
For the first time since 2017, all the leadership is on defense. During the 2017 campaign, the Tide had Isaiah Buggs, Raekwon Davis, Da’Ron Payne, Quinnen Williams, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Rashaan Evans, Anfernee Jennings, Mack Wilson, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison, Levi Wallace, Anthony Averett and Tony Brown.
Those guys pitched two shutouts and did not allow an opponent to record 30 or more points, en route to guiding Alabama to a College Football Playoff National Championship.
With last year in the books, the Tide has to replace a No. 1 quarterback, No. 1 running back, No. 1 wide receiver, three offensive linemen and an offensive coordinator. Its offense will have to find an identity, while much of its defense has returned.
Coach Saban held on to his entire defensive coaching staff and aside from losing Christian Barmore, Patrick Surtain II and Dylan Moses to the NFL Draft, Alabama’s impactful players are all back. It has the trio of Phidarian Mathis, LaBryan Ray and DJ Dale along the defensive line, and the duo of Tim Smith and Jamil Burroughs gained experience. The Tide also has Stephon Wynn, Braylen Ingraham, Jah-Marien Latham and four linemen it signed in this class.
Should he decide to target Henry To’o To’o (former Tennessee linebacker) from the NCAA transfer, Saban would be making a really good move for Alabama. If not, the program could transition Christian Harris to middle “Mike” linebacker and have either Jaylen Moody or Ale Kaho next to him.
The Tide is set at outside linebacker with Christopher Allen coming back and it has experience in the secondary.
As he enters his fourth year, Pete Golding knows all the personnel (coaches and players) around him.
Bill O’Brien will have to figure out how pieces work, while Golding has a head start. Last season was the lone year where Alabama’s offense led it wire-to-wire to a national championship.
It has everything needed to be respected on defense again. Next season, one can expect the Tide to be more defensive-oriented.
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