Torbush explains Bama schemes

For the average football fan (which includes this writer), identifying a particular defensive formation is usually a matter of looking to see which linebackers are--and are not--on the field. But according to Tide Defensive Coordinator Carl Torbush, it's more complicated that that. <br><br>"People may see Brooks Daniels on the field and count 1-2-3 linebackers," he said. "But that's not always true."

"People that don't understand what we're doing--which is most everybody--get confused."

Torbush, of course, is the man who should know. Over the course of his 25+ year career as a defensive coach, linebackers have been his specialty. "Sometimes Brooks is playing in a 4-2. Brooks may be inside and we put in another nickel. But fans don't see that. They see three linebackers on the field, so (to them) it's still a 4-3. Some people can recognize our formations. But most--if they try to figure it out from the stands--they'll never know."

Bama fans are expecting great things from Freddie Roach at middle linebacker.

Known as one of the best defensive minds in the country, Torbush has coached just about every defensive linebacking scheme there is. He explained; "My first job at Southeastern Louisiana was with linebackers, inside and outside, which was with four (linebackers). I did the same at Louisiana Tech. Ole Miss was linebackers coach again with three, but sometimes four. At that time we were still teaching out of a 50-front--a 3-4 front."

The essence of football remains the same, but Torbush says that defensive schemes evolve in response to new offensive formations. "Early in my career we always taught out of a 50-, but then went to a 4-3 look. The first time we began to teach out of a 4-3 would have been around 1995. Then I started teaching three (linebackers) instead of four or two."

Depending on how the final days of recruiting play out, it looks like Alabama will be relatively thin at linebacker next season. Which has prompted some fans to suggest that Torbush may choose to alter his scheme to more of a two-linebacker, three-safety look (also known as a 4-2) favored by Franchione at Texas Christian.

But Torbush patiently explained that the concept was actually a part of last year's defensive playbook. "We already play some 4-2 looks," Torbush said. "In 2001 we are often in a 4-2 look, and we'll run that scheme a bunch this year. When we've got a nickel (fifth defensive back) on the field, it is a 4-2 look. When we're in an eight-man front, it's a 4-2 look."

As defensive coordinator, Carl Torbush faces the challenge of rebuilding a post-Rasheed Alabama linebacking corps.

At this point in the discussion, it's probably time to ask Torbush to go all the way back to Linebacker 101. We know that the inside or ‘Mike' linebacker is normally the stronger, more physical athlete--based mainly on his primary run-stop responsibilities. But what about Alabama's other two linebacking positions?

"Your strongside (Sam) linebacker is more an inside linebacker, with your rover being more of an outside linebacker type," Torbush replied. "Your Sam linebacker does play outside a lot, which is the reason we call both outside linebackers. As far as skill level is concerned, we want all of them to be athletic. But the strong-safety type athlete is more of a Rover."

Listen carefully, fans. Because Torbush is now shifting into sophomore-level material.

"When we get in a 50- look, your Sam and Mike will be inside guys and your Rover will be an outside guy or a rush guy. When we get in our eight-man front, the Sam and Mike are our inside backers and the rover will be a strong safety guy. If we're in a 4-3 look, then the Mike linebacker is the inside linebacker and the Sam and Rover are the two outside backers. A lot of it depends on what kind of front we're in."

Offensive coaches are fond of talking about "taking what the defense gives," but the other side of that coin is that Torbush's choice of schemes is often dictated by the opposing offense's game plan. "At any given time we may be in a 4-3 to a 3-4 to a 3-3 with nickel personnel to a dime look (six defensive backs)," he explained. "We've got the whole package. It's just a matter that we put our guys in the right position and get the right guys on the field, depending on what the offenses are doing."

After taking over the starting job in the fourth game of the season, Wortham finished as Bama's fifth-leading tackler with 56.

Because of their multiple responsibilities in every phase of defense, linebackers are normally the best all-around athletes on the team. Torbush explained; "On defense for sure, linebackers have to be the most versatile, because they are involved in the running game with the front seven, and then they're involved in the passing game when the ball is thrown. Being able to shift from one look to another to another depends on having versatile athletes at linebacker.

"That's one good thing we have within our package is the ability to accentuate the strength of those guys year by year."

In many ways, Freddie Roach (6-2, 237, MLB), Cornelius Wortham (6-1, 225, SLB) and Brooks Daniels (6-2, 204, ROV) exemplify ideal physical abilities for their respective positions (though Daniels could stand another 10 pounds or so). But Torbush knows that part of his job is finding a way so that athletes with less-than-perfect physical skills can still contribute.

"If you go out and do a perfect job of recruiting, you're not going to have to, but that's not going to happen," he acknowledged. "That's like we need to be able to play more man coverage in the secondary, but at the same time we've got to accentuate our strengths. We want to give all our kids the best chance to be successful in our defense."

It would be nice if Torbush had only Saleem-Rasheed-type athletes to fill out his depth chart at linebacker. But numbers aren't everything. "The NFL is full of guys that aren't prototypical size," Torbush said. "Sam Neill, Dexter Coakley, there are a lot of them. All of us would like to have 6-3, 230-40 pound linebackers. But there are not going to be many Saleem Rasheeds out there.

"What you've got to do is accentuate somebody's strengths, whatever they may be."

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