Pass Defense

Chris Ball has figured out that offensive coordinators have too much time on their hands. The good news is that he figured it out several years ago and was prepared when Alabama opened the 2006 football season against three teams with spread offenses.

"It's basketball on grass," said Ball, who coaches Alabama defensive backs. "They spread it out, throw it around, and run, run, run. It seems that everyone's going that way. Everyone's got a little spread formation in the playbook now."

At the end of last season the Crimson Tide played Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. This year Bama opened the season against three spread teams -- Hawaii, Vanderbilt, and Louisiana Monroe.

There will be a little respite this week when Alabama goes to Fayetteville to meet Arkansas. "But they'll use it a little," Ball said. And then it's on to Florida for another spread offense.

"It has been unreal," Ball said. "Of course, we knew in the summer we'd be opening the season against three teams with a one-back offense and spread formation. We knew we'd have to get a lot of defensive backs ready."

Ball had a lot of them to choose from. Bama signed a large freshman class after having redshirted a handful of defensive backs last year. "We have a lot of young guys," Ball said. "We had to try to find out in a hurry if they could play.

"And they stepped up. They made it tough for us to pick out the ones to play, which is a good problem to have. They have done well.

"We've got eight or nine defensive backs on the kickoff coverage team and six or seven on the punt coverage team.

"They've done a good job. I'm really proud of them. And they are really contributing."

Ball came to Alabama with one of the innovators of the spread offense. Mike Price never had a chance to coach a Crimson Tide team, but Ball saw plenty of the philosophy.

"We knew it was coming and we began recruiting for it," he said. "It made us look for guys who could run and cover. You've got to have speed in coverage, defensive backs and linebackers, and speed guys who can rush the passer. Speed is at a premium against the spread.

Ball rattles off the names of secondary players who have performed well.

Simeon Castille has done well. Ramzee Robinson has played at an extremely high level. Marcus Carter made the decision to be a good player. Jeffrey Dukes and Rashad Johnson are good players. Some young guys, like Sam Burnthall and Justin Woodall, are showing up. And (senior walk-on) Bryan Kilpatrick has done well."

Ball has been coaching for 21 years and said he had never had depth in the secondary like he does with this team. And, it seems, he needs it.

Ball said his players are "hard-working, coachable, students of the game who are good people and a lot of fun to coach."


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