Last season, Hightower and Barron combined to lead the Crimson Tide with 151 tackles, while Upshaw made a team-high 9 ½ sacks.
Heading into this season, Alabama head coach Nick Saban called his defense young and inexperienced. Sure Robert Lester and Dee Milliner had gotten playing time, sure Damion Square and C.J. Mosley have been here for awhile, but that was Saban's song and he was sticking to it.
But then a couple games in, Alabama's young and inexperienced defense soared to the top of the rankings in many of the major statistical categories. Now nine weeks in, No. 1 Alabama is No. 1 in scoring defense (allowing opponents just 8.1 points per game), rushing defense (57.2 yards per game), passing efficiency defense (88.6 rating) and total defense (203.1 ypg). The Tide is No. 2 in passing defense (145.9 ypg) behind Michigan.
Mosley has been extremely dominant and leads the team with 65 tackles. The next player in line is Vinnie Sunseri with 36. Mosley has also recorded two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown and has 3 ½ tackles for loss. His consistency week in and week out has earned him SEC and Alabama player of the week honors (the coaching staff has named him a defensive player of the week seven out of eight times).
Several youngsters have stood out as well. Sophomores Sunseri and Trey DePriest have combined for 70 tackles, while Adrian Hubbard has 5 ½ tackles for loss and leads the team with 3 ½ sacks. True freshman Denzel Devall has two sacks, redshirt freshman D.J. Pettway has 1 ½ and four other sophomores—Hubbard, Xzavier Dickson, Sunseri and Jeoffrey Pagan and least have half a sack.
"For all the young players that we have, if you would have told me we'd be in a position statistically in scoring defense-wise that we're in right now, I would have said probably no way," Saban said. "But these guys have really set out with an attitude that they want to prove something and we've had some guys that have really stepped up as playmakers."
Saban went on to reference Mosley, Millner and "our guys up front," but with the way Alabama is smothering offenses and holding talented athletes to minimal yardage—for example, the Tide held the SEC's leading rusher, Mississippi State's LaDarius Perskins who had been averaging over 100 yards per game, to 38 total yards over the weekend and held Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray to 184 yards passing (plus two interceptions) the week before—it's clearly been a team effort, no matter how young or old the guys in the unit may be.
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