21 September 2011
The Alabama football team had its final practice of the week with a media viewing period. As far as we know, both Alabama and Arkansas are still in the SEC West, and will still be there next year.
Here's what you need to know:
Any health concerns lingering from the North Texas game are over.
Robert Lester practiced with no limitations on Wednesday after coming out of last Saturday's game with a back injury.
Dee Milliner has been back at practice for the last two days after missing Monday's practice due to illness.
The only player other than the quarterbacks that was wearing black on Wednesday is Dee Hart, and even he is progressing nicely.
So Bama is healthy heading into its SEC opener. That's as good as can really be asked for.
As far as practice itself, needless to say, the staff has been very careful what they are showing and what they aren't. This is a huge game on Saturday, and the only things that are being worked on during the media viewing period are the basic, simple things.
It looks like we'll see the same starting lineup that we saw against North Texas. That means A.J. McCarron at quarterback, Barrett Jones at left tackle, and Jesse Williams at defensive end.
Given the propensity that the Hogs have for passing the ball, I think we can expect Bama to open in either the nickel or the dime, which also means that we'll see all three cornerbacks, as well as possibly Will Lowery.
I promised a look at the defense through the first three games, so here you go:
Bama hasn't exactly faced Georgie Tech or South Carolina, but the Tide has been pretty stingy against the run. The Tide ranks 4th nationally in allowing an average of 55.33 yards per game. It shouldn't shock anyone to know that ranking 4th nationally means ranking third in the SEC, but such is life in the nation's toughest conference.
The good news for the rushing defense is that the Bama defense has put up that number without the benefit of a lot of negative yards due to sacks. Having more sacks would be good news, but the fact that the Tide is limiting teams to just 55 yards per game without the sacks is an indication that the defense has been extremely solid up front. The addition of Jesse Williams alongside of Josh Chapman and Damion Square has made the front three formidable, and I believe that Bama has the nation's best linebacker corps.
Don't lose sight of how much the Tide secondary contributes to stopping the run. Mark Barron and DeQuan Menzie are both very sure tacklers, and Dre Kirkpatrick is quick to the point of attack. The guys from Bama's back four (or five or six) are coached amazingly well in run support, and they have executed extremely well so far.
The longest rushing play given up by Bama this season is 15 yards. That means that the opponents have zero explosive plays in the running game. When you can not only avoid those, but be solid on first down, you keep opponents behind the chains and in obvious passing downs. There is not much else that you can expect from a rushing defense.
It's an easy grade - A.
I think all of us would like to see Bama get more sacks. The fact that the Tide has just four through three games is simply not good. Bama should not rank 76th in nation in any defensive category, and that's where they are when it comes to sacks.
But there are two main things to take into consideration:
- Bama hasn't exactly unleashed any complex blitz packages.
- While the sacks haven't been there, Bama has put pressure on the quarterback.
Obviously you want to see the opposing quarterback on the ground, and you want to see the opponent losing six and eight yards in bunches. But routinely having a hand in the quarterback's face, or a helmet in his chest, is a good thing. It not only wears on the quarterback mentally and physically, but it creates bad throws, which create opportunities for interceptions.
Granted, with just two interceptions, Bama isn't exactly leading the nation there. But to be honest, the opposing quarterbacks have been so bad passing the ball, there simply haven't been many chances for interceptions. When the ball is sailing out of bounds or bouncing five feet in front of the intended receiver, there will rarely be an interception.
The raw numbers don't lie:
- Opposing quarterbacks are 45 of 117 on the year - just 38.5%.
- Bama ranks 5th in the nation and first in the SEC in passing defense at 114.67 yards per game.
- Bama ranks 2nd in the nation and first in the SEC in passing efficiency defense, allowing a QB rating of 62.60.
The bottom line is that it has been extremely tough completing passes against the Tide. And when you do, it's not for a big gain. The longest pass played allowed was 27 yards. That means that the defense has allowed only one explosive passing play.
In all, Bama's defense has been credited with 28 passes defended. While that might not seem like a lot, that's an average of just over 9 pass plays per game where the defensive player is credited as having been directly responsible for causing an incompletion. Bama's opponents have just 16.
It's not just good coverage, either. The NCAA doesn't keep "yards after catch" as an official stat, so there is no way to know for certain, but Bama simply isn't allowing anything in the YAC department. When guys do catch a pass, they tend to get tackled immediately. It's not just the defensive backs, either. The linebackers are used in pass coverage a lot.
Again, this is an easy grade - A.
Bama is 3rd in the nation and 1st in the SEC in total defense at 170 yards per game. The Tide is 2nd in the nation and 1st in the SEC in average points allowed at 6 per game. This is a good defense, folks. A damn good one. The competition gets better from here on out, but I don't expect we'll see Bama's rankings defensively drop off a whole lot. We should know a lot more on that after Saturday's game.
Grade for the overall defense through three games - A dominating A.
|< Prev||Next >|