Following Alabama’s 10-0 win over LSU Saturday in which the Crimson Tide held the Tigers to extraordinarily low offensive production (6 first downs, 33 yards rushing, 125 yards of total offense), Bama Coach Nick Saban had an interesting description of his defenders.
Saban was asked about Alabama holding one of the nation’s best running backs, Leonard Fournette, to only 35 yards in 17 carries in Tiger Stadium. The Tide coach said, “We have some pretty hateful guys that play on defense around here that are pretty good competitors, and when they get challenged they usually respond and I thought they responded really well tonight.”
Saban had a little more in his answer. He said, “I think when you play a great player like that, everybody has to really focus on doing their job. Our gus did it last year (Fournette had only 31 yards on 19 carries against Bama in 2015) and we played a lot of the same stuff we played a year ago. We played 3-4 (three down linemen, four linebackers); everybody’s got a gap, everybody’s got to win the block on the line, everybody’s got to create a new line of scrimmage and keep contain on a guy. We can’t have one guy tackling.”
Alabama’s defense was good enough that the Walter Camp Foundation’s Defensive “Player” of the Week was the entire Bama defense. And when the Alabama coaching staff’s weekly recognition of players was announced the Tide coaching staff had made the same selection.
In his Monday press briefing, Saban was asked what he meant by his defenders being “hateful guys.”
He said, “To be a good competitor, you've got to have a little stuff in your neck, if you know what that means. I don't know if I have to explain that too. I hope not. That's what good defensive players are.
“When I was in Cleveland and we were getting ready for the draft, we got this great idea that we were going to hire this psychological guy to come in and give these guys a TAP test for their psychological disposition. The nine best defensive players in the draft that year had D TAPS. I said, 'What are we hiring these guys to do?’
“We want them to be aggressive, we want them to be competitive, not in the real world but at least on the football field. These characteristics are important in defensive players. We're evaluating these guys as to what they're like on Sundays, which may not be the same.
“We want a guy that's going to go hit a guy that weighs 250 pounds running downhill as hard as he can hit him. Let me figure out what is a D-Tap, a good thing or a bad thing.
“Even though we have an expectation for our guys to represent themselves off the field in a first-class way, I think good defensive football players all have a competitive edge about them that requires a lot of mental toughness, a lot of physical toughness, and they've got to have a lot of resiliency. because sometimes you go in a guy under difficult circumstances. A difficult change occurs, whatever it might be. To respond the right way to those things takes the right kind of psychological disposition. I think we have a lot of guys on our defensive team that are very, very competitive.”
Video by A.P. Steadham