Torbush targets areas for improvement

Averaging more than 400 yards per game, most fans agree that the 2001 offense--while far from perfect--generally played well. And since Bama was solid, if not spectacular, in the kicking game, that left a too-often porous defense as the favorite fan scapegoat. <br><br>A fact that Tide Defensive Coordinator Carl Torbush takes quite personally.

"I think you really find out what people and their personalities are all about when times are tough," Torbush said. "And I think times were tough. We got a chance to legitimately see how all of us would respond in those situations."

In truth the Tide defense was a not unrespectable fifth in the SEC (48th nationally) in total defense, yielding 361.1 yards per game. But a good job on rush defense (4th in the SEC, 16th nationally at 115 per game) was unfortunately offset by below-average numbers in the secondary. On pass defense the Tide ranked 95th out of 116 Division 1A teams, yielding more than 252 yards per contest.

Rover Brooks Daniels was Bama's second-leading tackler with 102.

"The biggest thing is we want to be able to play more man coverage," Torbush said. "If we can do that, then we feel like we can get more pressure on the quarterback consistently. We don't want to stop playing zone, but we want to play it when we want to play it. Not because we have to play it.

"There is no doubt we want to be able to play more man coverage."

Both Saleem Rasheed and Brooks Daniels totaled more than 100 tackles each on defense, but too often defensive players missed on the first attempt, allowing back-breaking yardage after first contact. Torbush explained, "We've got to do a better job tackling. Some games we did a good job and some we didn't. We struggled. My biggest disappointment the entire year was I did not think we were a real good tackling team."

At plus 0.40 in the turnover department, the Tide finished a respectable fourth in conference and 33rd nationally. But those numbers were more a result of offensive efficiency (Bama lost only 15 turnovers all year: five interceptions and 10 fumbles) than anything accomplished by the defense. For the year, Alabama recovered only 13 fumbles, while intercepting a paltry six passes. No Tide defender had more than one interception, and two of the picks were turned in by defensive linemen.

"We've got to create more turnovers," Torbush stated flatly. "We work on it in practice, but it's got to happen (on game day). The one thing that we did not do a very good job on was creating turnovers.

With one to his credit, nose tackle Kenny King tied for the team lead in interceptions.

"We've got to create more turnovers."

Yielding 19.9 points per game, Alabama ranked 24th nationally and fifth in conference in Scoring Defense. "The areas we harp on are No. 1 scoring defense," Torbush explained. "And other than Tennessee and LSU we did pretty good."

Of course Torbush knows all too well that saying "other than LSU" is like Captain Smith commenting "other than the iceberg, the Titanic had a pleasant maiden voyage." LSU had three rushing touchdowns, 44 pass attempts, 35 pass completions, 528 yards passing--averaging 12.0 yards per reception, 30 first downs and 611 yards of total offense.

All season highs versus the Tide defense.

"We gave up far too many big plays," Torbush acknowledged. "Especially midway through the season when the game was on the line and we needed to make some plays and were not able to make them."

Torbush is also determined to improve Bama's production when facing third down. "The second major thing we emphasize is third-down conversion ratio," he related. "And other than LSU--which was pretty much a farce--we did pretty good at that all year."

Despite missing one game with a strained MCL, Kindal Moorehead led Alabama in quarterback hurries with 12. Not to mention his one interception.

For the season, Tide opponents converted third downs at a 42 percent clip. But if consecutive defeats versus Tennessee and LSU are removed from the equation, that number drops to a more respectable 34 percent.

After those two losses, Bama's record stood at 3-5 with its back literally against the wall. But despite a firestorm of criticism directed at the defense, Torbush's charges responded with solid play in the Tide's final four victories to end the season.

Torbush said, "I liked the fact that when times were tough--especially after Tennessee and LSU--when nobody believed in them except us and them, they continued to fight."

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