Tide Defense Has Up-Tempo Preparation

There's only so much a college defense can do between seasons to prepare for the latest national rage, also known as the up-tempo, no-huddle offense. From veteran defensive coordinator Kirby Smart down to the newest freshmen members of the team, the 2013 Alabama Crimson Tide has been doing just that.

Kirby Smart is in his ninth year as an assistant to Nick Saban and the Alabama defensive coordinator is in his seventh year with the Crimson Tide. On Sunday, he met with Bama media to discuss preparations for the season, and the hurry-up, no-huddle was part of the conversation.

"I've seen it since I coached at Valdosta State with Will Muschamp for Chris Hatcher," Smart said. "Chris ran the hurry-up. It's not new to me. It's just that more teams are doing it now. The new cycle is no-huddle, fast-paced offenses. We've adapted, and we've studied with some NFL guys, created new ideas, and tried to figure out ways to get negative plays. When you do that, it can hurt them.

"(The offenses) dictate to us what we can do. If they don't substitute, we can't. If they do, it's very important the official sees that, because that allows us to substitute. We have to make the determination if it's better to play with the personnel we have in the game. That's a tough decision, and we do it by game-planning. We're always watching for when they substitute."

While coaches aren't with college players between spring practice and the start of camp in August, other Bama staffers along with veteran players aid in getting ready for new trends such as the no-huddle/up-tempo offenses.

"It's an emphasis," said junior linebacker Trey DePriest. "We play seven teams this year that do the hurry-up. It's definitely going to be something we continue to emphasize here."

"We know we've got to be ready for teams that run the up-tempo offense," said senior defensive end Ed Stinson. "We practice on everything we can against it, like play-calls."

Senior All-America linebacker C.J. Mosley concurs. "It's all about communication," he said, "from the left side of the field to the right. Seven of the twelve teams we play this season run some form of the no-huddle. We worked on it all summer. You've always got to be prepared."

There are different ways to prepare for the hurry-up during an off-season; some physical, some mental. "We work with (strength/conditioning) coach (Scott) Cochran the whole off-season," said junior safety Vinnie Sunseri. "We did a lot of fast-paced sprints with little to no breaks."

Added senior cornerback John Fulton, "We get together after (summer 7-on7) practices, and we watched a lot of extra film (on the no-huddle), even the new guys. We try to get better defending it one day at a time, one practice at a time, and one game at a time."

Repetition is the key to learning to defend any offense, including the hurry-up. "We have practices through the offenses like that," said sophomore linebacker Denzel Devall. "It's something you can work on all year long, even when coaches are not around, like summer 7-on7s."

Players can only do so much, however. When all is said and done, it's the game-planning by Smart and Nick Saban that will determine the 2013 Tide's success, or lack thereof, against the no-huddle.

"Different teams, different schemes," said junior outside linebacker Adrian Hubbard, who led the Tide in sacks last year. "Coach (Kirby) Smart and them do their jobs. We just do what they tell us to do. We learn from our own mistakes, and try to do what we can."

"We depend on our coaches for play-calls and substitutions," said Stinson, "and we try to make sure we're in shape. We take our conditioning seriously."

That conditioning can be a key when an offense like Texas A&M or Auburn chooses to neither huddle nor substitute.

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