Alabama Defense Has Been Doing Well
Alabama Coach Nick Saban acknowledges a defense that has done well and points to some reasons. For one thing, the Crimson Tide defense hasn't given up many big plays – one in the season-opening victory over Clemson and two in last Saturday's win over Tulane. "Last year we were giving up six or seven a game," the coach said.
Another plus factor, Saban said, is Alabama's play in the Red Zone this year being good when last year it was not good. "We've been extremely good in the Red Zone," he said. "In four or five opportunities they've [opponents] gotten nothing or had to kick at a field goal."
Saban also noted some specifics, starting in the defensive line. "Cody (junior college transfer Terrence Cody), being a nose [tackle], a real nose, and Josh (Josh Chapman) at nose. Last year we had Lorenzo Washington, who is not a true nose. Now Washington is playing outside, where he is better.
"Dont'a Hightower being able to start at weakside linebacker. That enabled us to move Cory Reamer to outside linebacker, where he worked last spring. That helped us at two places."
Saban said that Reamer "has done a good job for us this year." He said Reamer was bigger and stronger, that he is smart and doesn't make many errors, and that he is tough.
Saban said he hoped that more young players would get an opportunity to play, noting that safety Mark Barron had gotten "a little" and needed to get more.
It was not a surprise that Saban pointed to an area where the defense needs to improve. "We're not getting turnovers," he said. "Rashad Johnson has had his hands on two or three passes but hasn't gotten an interception. We're not turning it over (on offense), but we're not getting turnovers. Getting turnovers is a significant factor in games and we need to improve."
Alabama has to prepare for a new look this week. The Crimson Tide, ranked 11th in the nation, hosts Western Kentucky in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday. Kickoff will be at 6 p.m. CDT with the only television coverage on a pay-per-view basis.
Saban said that Western Kentucky's offense means that Alabama will have five or six defensive backs on the field "most of the time." The Hilltoppers he said, usually have "three or four wide receivers."
Alabama prepares for a no-huddle offense every day. In each practice there are segments in which the first offense goes against the first defense and the second offense against the second defense. In those segments it is no huddle. That prepares the defense for when it sees a no-huddle attack and practices the offense to use it when necessary or, Saban said, "when we want to change the tempo."
Bama worked for two hours in full pads at the Thomas-Drew Practice facility Wednesday. A light rain fell for the majority of practice.
"Sometimes you have to ask yourself what are you capable of becoming, instead of what we're doing at this particular time," Saban said following practice. "I think so many times we don't think how we can change what we can do to affect other people. How we can change our attitudes, our thoughts and our habits, in terms of how we go about doing things, so that we can become what we are capable of becoming.
"That is sort of the challenge to our team right now, in my opinion. What are we capable of becoming? Obviously, we didn't make the progress we wanted to make from week one to week two. Even though the effort has been pretty good in practice this week, the execution needs to improve dramatically, which comes from focus and preparation. Hopefully, we are going to have that on Saturday."
On the injury front, Saban said junior left tackle Andre Smith, sophomore receiver Earl Alexander, junior return specialist Javier Arenas, junior kicker Leigh Tiffin and sophomore linebacker Charlie Higgenbotham have all practiced this week and should all play this weekend against Western Kentucky. Saban also noted that senior offensive lineman Marlon Davis was "probably still a little bit questionable" for the game. Junior punter/kicker Heath Thomas, who made his debut last Saturday against Tulane, is "wearing a boot on a bruised foot."
Wide receiver Brandon Gibson returns this week from a two-game suspension from a minor NCAA infraction. Wide receiver Will Oakley, who has been absent with a stress fracture in his foot, could play this week.
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