"We are doing a lot of blitzing," Ellis confirmed. "Last season it was a little bit more conservative, but [defensive coordinator] Coach [Carl] Torbush wants to put pressure on the quarterback and the offensive line, so we've been blitzing a lot."
Ellis said Torbush has almost completely revamped the Tide's defensive schemes. "Last year, we were only blitzing in certain situations," Ellis said. "Coach Torbush has a lot of different defenses, but at the same time they're really simplified, so we understand them."
Simple or not, Torbush's plans to pressure opposing quarterbacks have the full support of his head coach. "I tell people that I don't think Carl will blitz until we get off the bus," Dennis Franchione quipped. "We'll definitely press the issue. I think sometimes he draws up blitzes out there on the practice field. Today we busted one, and he put it in the game plan."
Joking aside, there's no question that the blitz will be part of Alabama's schemes. And Ellis said the defense has been working hard to learn the defense."It's a whole new system, but it's not as hard. We get a lot of reps and it's not hard to pick up. That's the biggest thing -- getting reps on the field."
Ellis will play alongside talented junior middle linebacker Saleem Rasheed and sophomore rover Brooks Daniels. "I really do like us two [Saleem and me] along with Brooks Daniels, who's a real good player," Ellis said. "We just want to make some plays and make something happen at that position."
Ellis, a Chattanooga, Tennessee, native, has emerged as a leader on the brink of his senior season, evidenced by his election to the team's Leadership Council. He was also selected by Coach Dennis Franchione to be one of the Tide's two representatives at the annual SEC Kickoff, where he impressed the media as one of the chattier players at the event.
Ellis played sparingly in his freshman season, racked up 20 tackles in his sophomore season, but then took off last year as a junior. He started every game in 2000 and notched 94 tackles, two and half sacks and two blocked field goals.
With a more aggressive defensive package, Ellis hopes his sacks tally will rise in 2001. "It's a changeup from last year."