Tide Has Components On Defensive Line

How often have you heard a coach or quarterback say, “We’re going to take what the defense gives us”? Alabama Coach Nick Saban has a little addition to that adage: “Keep taking what they give you, and eventually they’ll give you the game.”

Alabama and Nick Saban, of course, also are on the other side of that coin. The Crimson Tide defense has to give something to the opposing offense. It is a reasonable goal of every defense to try to take away what the opposing offense most would like to do.

The problem for many teams – probably most teams – is they don’t have the defensive personnel to take away one week what a power running team wants to do and the next week take away what a spread passing team wants to do.

In his comments this week on our Insiders Board, Cary Clark has been taking a look – his take – at all of Alabama’s position groups going into the 2015 season. It is Cary’s usual high quality work. It’s not just a matter of guessing at a depth chart. He has put a lot of thought into players meshing with other players.

There is probably no better example than his “take” on the defensive line. He wrote:

“According to practice watchers, organizational groupings (not a depth chart) on Alabama's defensive front looks like this:

“First group-junior A'Shawn Robinson, senior Jarran Reed, and senior nose tackle Darren Lake

“Second group-Junior Jonathan Allen, junior Dalvin Tomlinson, and sophomore nose tackle Josh Frazier

“Third group- senior D.J. Pettway, sophomore Da'Shawn Hand, and redshirt freshman nose tackle O.J. Smith.”

Clark thinks this “is the pecking order against running teams like opening foe Wisconsin, Arkansas, and LSU.

“I feel it changes vs. hurry-up and passing teams. Those offenses won't see huge nose tackles like Lake, Smith, or freshman Daron Payne, a possible redshirt.”

Saban has made no secret of his disdain for the hurry-up offense because it doesn’t allow the defense to substitute. Saban has also said that he thinks the spread offense is here to stay for awhile and that it is his job to have his team coached to play against it.

As with most things that are successful in college athletics, it starts with recruiting. Saban has moved away from the template of the mega-sized defensive linemen, at least to some extent. It may be that he has ten or so quality defensive linemen because he needs some of the big boys for the big boy offenses that intend to challenge and he has some of what he calls “quick twitch guys,” smaller and more athletic, to play against the spread teams.

Things certainly can change, including changes predicated by injury, but it doesn’t seem absurd to believe that Bama’s defense against the no-huddle teams will have Robinson in the middle with Allen and Reed at the ends.

In truth, it appears Bama has built a defensive line that has the components to take away anything the opposing offense has to offer.

We shall see.

Alabama had its third practice of fall camp Saturday, working in shells (helmets and shoulder pads, but not full grear yet). Another shells practice will be held Sunday when Bama has an open practice (2:30 p.m. CDT) at Bryant-Denny Stadium, followed by coaches and players being available for autographs.

The Tide will go into full gear Monday.

Alabama opens the season Saturday, Sept. 5, against Wisconsin in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

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