Saban Goes On Offense Defending Defense

Alabama Coach Nick Saban is known for defense, but he was on the offense about his defense Saturday when the question of preparing for hurry-up offenses arose…again. In part because the Crimson Tide struggled against the hurry-up offenses last year, and in part because of Saban’s public stance against the tactic – stridently rebutted by its proponents – it has been a primary topic of conversation.

Following Alabama’s first scrimmage of fall camp, Coach Nick Saban was asked how Bama works in practice against the hurry-up offense. Although Tide practices are not open to the public, Saban and Alabama players have discussed an emphasis on defending against an offense that restricts defensive substitutions and coaching strategy.

“We practice it every day,” Saban said. “And we usually do it good-on-good (first team offense vs. first team defense). We scrimmaged a segment of it [Saturday], probably eight or ten plays.

“It’s hard to simulate when you’re not a no-huddle team. Our team is capable of being a no-huddle team, so we practice that against each other. That’s the best way that we can give the best look. So we have practiced it more.”

Saban then defended his defense, which was best in the Southeastern Conference again last season.

His first example wasn’t the best, noting that with 30 seconds to play at Auburn the Tide had surrendered only 21 points. The Tigers, of course, scored a tying touchdown in the final minute, then won the game with a return of a missed field goal in the final second. Saban noted that Auburn scored 60 in the SEC Championship Game (actually a 59-42 win over Missouri) and said no one held Auburn to 21 (but LSU was a 35-21 winner over Auburn).

Saban continued, “We shut Ole Miss out here. We had four turnovers against Oklahoma that led to 28 points. Two of them, the defense never even got back on the field. So there were 14 points they (Tide defense) didn’t even show up for. They run the kickoff back for a touchdown, recovered a fumble for a touchdown – and (the Bama offense) gave them the ball another time on the 13-yard line.

“So when you look in it deeply relative to how the other teams do, do we need to play better or do we play as well against those teams as maybe some other teams? I guess you could make the case for that.

“But I do think that it’s much more difficult for defensive players to sustain their intensity throughout the game when they’re playing that many plays. So it becomes a team thing. How about keeping the ball away from them? How about controlling the ball on offense so they don’t the ball so much? That’s something that we did in the A&M game. We didn’t play very well on defense in that game, in my opinion. We didn’t play very well on defense in the Oklahoma game.

“But we make it out like we’re horrible when we play a (no-huddle) team. We played seven no-huddle teams last year. We didn’t do as well as we should have in a couple of those games. But I also think that it takes the defensive coaches out of the game. We do a good job of scheming people when we play them. We do a good job of telling our players how they need to play things and how to stop what they do.

“And when you play a no-huddle team, you can’t do as good a job of that. They don’t recognize it as fast. And I don’t care how you practice it, it’s going to be difficult unless you’re a no-huddle team yourself. And that has a downside because how do you coach the players? Can’t coach them between plays because everything’s about how fast you go.

“So we’re going to improve on it. We’re practicing it better. We need to improve on it. But I think we need to improve on defense period. I think we need to improve in coverage. I think we need to improve in mental errors. I think we need to improve how we strike people up front. I think we missed too many tackles today, so we’ve got to tackle a whole lot better. And we can’t give up big plays. And we’ve got to be able to pressure the quarterback better.

“So I think if we can do all those things better we’ll probably play against everybody better.”

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