Defense Hopes For Different Result

Sometimes you're the bug and sometimes you're the windshield. Alabama's defense—and particularly the secondary--has to hope it's not squashed again Saturday when the Crimson Tide has its second and final scrimmage of Fall camp at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Throughout the week, Alabama's offensive players have been down-playing last week's scrimmage results, even while acknowledging that the offense had a really good day. (In the same breath, those players say that when they went over the videotapes in meetings this week, they found areas where offensive improvement is needed.)

Moreover, offensive players have said that this week the defense has been winning battles against the offense.

Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban makes the scrimmage results sound ominous. "We're still looking for a number of guys at a number of positions to find out who we're going to coach for this season," he said.

The scrimmage—full speed, full gear, 11 offensive players vs. 11 defensive players—is a staple of pre-season football preparation. Alabama has two scrimmage sessions in its Fall camp. The first was last Saturday and the second will be this Saturday.

The big news out of the first scrimmage: passing numbers. Against a Saban defense (and he personally coaches cornerbacks), returning senior quarterback Greg McElroy completed 26 of 33 passes for 60 yards and six touchdowns and redshirt freshman A.J. McCarron was good on 21 of 26 for 241 yards and two touchdowns.

There were extenuating circumstances with a number of injuries in the secondary. Cornerbacks Demarcus Milliner (ankle) and Dequan Menzie (hamstring), both listed by Saban as sure to be in the playing rotation and possibly starters, were out of the scrimmage. On the second series of the scrimmage, safety Robert Lester went out with a concussion.

In Saban's latest injury update, he said that Milliner is still day-to-day, but Lester and Menzie have been back at work. Bama moved freshman tailback Corey Grant to cornerback for a few days this week, and Savban pronounced Grant's defensive work as good, but Grant is back at his normal running back position now.

Even with all hands, the Alabama secondary is a rebuilding project. Three cornerbacks (Bama more often than not plays nickel and dime packages with an extra cornerback) were NFL draft choices this year, and a starting safety also was graduated. All-America candidate Mark Barron is the lone returning starter from Bama's 2009 national championship team that was among the team leaders in most national defensive statistics.

Probably the biggest factor in the passing numbers put up against the defense last week, though, is that in Alabama practices—scrimmages included—the quarterbacks are off limits. There are no sacks allowed, which slows down the pass rush. The quarterbacks know they are not going to be hit, which provides a comfort level for the passers. Good passers will cut up a secondary when pass rush is not a factor.

Turn Marcell Dareus loose and quarterbacks aren't just sitting in the pocket, eyes downfield. They tend to get happy feet, cut their eyes a bit to see where 57 is.

Saban likes to put the first offense against the first defense, second offense against the second defense. The good news-bad news result is that it is difficult for both to look good. If the offense is doing well, hip hip hooray! for the offense. But the defense has had a bad day. Or vice versa.

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