Smart Sees Ways To Improve Against Hurry Up

When Alabama Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart took his turn with sports reporters Sunday, it was no surprise that much of the conversation revolved around the difficulty the Crimson Tide had last year with some of the hurry-up offenses, particularly in a close win at Texas A&M and a close loss at Auburn.

Although most analyses of Alabama football this year point to the Crimson Tide not facing the two teams expected to be best in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division (South Carolina and Georgia), Smart pointed out that the difficulty the Bama defense faces is that it plays against different type offensive teams.

Smart said, “We want to be able to beat LSU in our league, Auburn in our league, Texas A&M, good teams in our league, especially our side, that challenge you. So you’ve got to have enough players so that you can play every kind of style of football.

“And that, obviously, is what our goal is. Our No. 1 goal this fall camp is to improve on that. And there’s a lot of ways to improve on that whether it’s being in shape, cutting weight, play more snaps, play more people. So you’ve got to have more depth.

“There’s a lot of things we can do to hopefully improve on that and try to play those style of offenses better.”

Last year Alabama gave up 628 yards and 42 points at Texas A&M, where Johnny Manziel was attempting to repeat his upset of the Crimson Tide. Fortunately, he was intercepted twice -- once in the end zone by Cyrus Jones and once by Vinnie Sunseri, who returned it 73 yards for a touchdown. Additionally, Alabama put up 568 yards of offense and had 49 points.

Alabama won the offensive statistics numbers at Auburn, the Tide getting 495 yards of offense to the Tigers’ 393, but Bama’s offense allowed an 83-yard scoring drive in the final moments before the special teams gave up a 100-yard missed field goal teturn for a winning score as time expired.

Against another hurry up team, Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, Bama again had better total offense (516 yards to 429), but suffered five turnovers in a 45-31 loss.

Against good teams with more traditional offenses, LSU (284 yards) and Mississippi State (197 yards), the Bama defense performed well. Ole Miss was a hurry up team, but Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace had an injured arm and the Tide held Mississippi to only 205 yards in a 25-0 win.

Clearly the problem for Bama was facing good teams with fast-paced offenses.

Smart pointed out, “It’s definitely challenging because you don’t face that kind of offense daily. It’s not really who we are offensively, so you spend time, obviously simulating that in different ways, whether it’s the scout team or your offense.

“But you can never simulate it as good as a hurry-up team that traditionally does this well. So you’ve got to practice that.”

Alabama must also recruit players to go against that type offense.

Tide Head Coach Nick Saban had pointed out that the Tide recognized that in landing some different type big men for up front positions – “quick twitch” players he calls them. Men like A'Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed, Da'Shawn Hand, and D.J. Pettway are big men, but with great explosiveness to attack offenses.

Smart said, “We try to go get the best football players we can regardless of size -- the type guy we’re looking for.”

Interestingly, there is an upward flow. Many high schools have switched to the zone read type offenses that rely on hurry up for success. That also means high school defensive players are seeing more of that offense, albeit not at the same speed they will see at the SEC level.

Smart said, “It’s a different speed, but they’re more and more ready because they see it more and more themselves. It’s a trickle-down effect, so what they’re seeing in the high schools is what we’re seeing. Their defensive coordinators, a lot of them are really good high school coaches, they do are the same things that we do. We go meet with them, they come meet with us, we share ideas. So those guys are going through the same process that we do here, but it’s probably not at the same tempo they face here. But I do agree that every year our freshmen are closer and closer to (being) ready to play, and lot more of them are coming mid-year. So they’ve got 15 practices under their belt. It’s probably a lot easier to do that now than it was, say, 10 years ago.”

As a bottom line, Smart said he is “really excited about the group that we’ve got to work with. They’re full of energy, a lot of young guys out there competing. Obviously we’ve got to show some improvement, especially after the last two games last year. I’m really proud of where the guys are headed so far. Seems to be a little bit of a chip-on-their-shoulder type attitude.

“I think we have more depth if we can avoid some injures in some spots. We’ll have more youth, but we’ll also have more depth at a lot of positions (where) we didn’t have that last year. I really think that’s key in college football these days — having depth, playing more players, keeping guys fresh.

“We’ve got a long way to go. But where we can go I’m really enthused about the group we’ve got.”

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