Obviously an important part of a D-Line coach's job is to teach the new schemes, but Eggen places an even greater value on making sure his athletes play aggressively on every down. "Sometimes assignment-wise the defensive line is a simple position," Eggen said. "But it's not easy, because it's very demanding mentally--in terms of having the mental toughness to come out and be aggressive every snap.
"Having 600 pounds of human beings weighing on you and pushing on you every down, that's not easy. But you have to do that. Once you develop that attitude in the players, then everything else can fall into place for us schematically."
Forging an aggressive unit determined to play hard every down is a major goal for Eggen, but as fall practice approaches the Tide coaches are still scouring the roster in search of quality backups. "First we develop guys that we can trust, and then we work on depth," Eggen said. "Depth to where we're not going to wear out the four (starters) in the game. I think we have the capability to do that."
As the depth chart stands now, Kindal Moorehead and Kenny King would start at end with Jarrett Johnson and David Daniel getting the nod on the inside. Following spring, the Tide coaches are confident in Aries Monroe, Antwan Odom, Nautyn McKay-Loescher and Shawn Oglesby as quality backups at end. But little-used Derek Sanders and not-yet-used Anthony Bryant provide the only scholarshipped depth at tackle.
Obviously the depth chart along the defensive line sports several quality athletes at defensive end, which will dictate some shuffling of the lineup during games. "Depth at defensive tackle remains a concern--very much so," Eggen acknowledged. "And yet some of our tackles showed that they are capable of playing, they just need to work on consistency. Jarrett (Johnson, former defensive end) will play inside. And just about any of our other ends could do that if they need to."
Even though the new Tide staff has been on the job since last January, there was only so much that could be accomplished during spring drills. So Eggen and the rest of the defensive coaches chose to emphasize attitude over schemes. "We didn't move around and stunt as much during spring as we will do," he explained. "We were trying to just teach them to press the line of scrimmage. I saw talent and progress to make me believe we can (develop depth), but I have yet to see the consistency.
"There were times when I thought we started to understand what it meant to get off the ball and press the line of scrimmage. But there were days when I didn't feel like we were as aggressive inside as we needed to be. Right now the younger guys need to do that more consistently."
As Vince Lombardi famously said, ‘Fatigue makes cowards of us all.' The ‘all' referring to football players, of course. So Tide fans are trusting that a large part of those consistency problems be solved over the next two months, as the Bama athletes work themselves into peak condition.
But Eggen knows there is more to it than that. "It involves conditioning, certainly," he said. "But more than that right now it's mental toughness that we've got to work on. We still have a long ways to go as a unit. We've got some individuals that stepped up to show that they are quality players, but this fall we've got to see more."
"We need to see more players that will come out every day and compete hard. Not just in segments. That's the thing I need to see. And I need to see it from more players than I have so far."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Coach Eggen also talked about the four athletes who generally did provide that consistent effort on every down that he demands. Check back with BamaMag for that story soon.