Scouting Alabama Defense and Special Teams

Defensively, Alabama is very talented, but nowhere near what they were a year ago. Opponents are gaining 107 yards a game on the ground and 189 through the air. They have had trouble rushing the passer (4 sacks). Arkansas threw for 357 yards last week and that points out clearly that the secondary is the weakest link on the unit.

The defensive line has not been as good as expected largely due to the issues surrounding Marcel Dareus. He missed the first two games as part of an agent involvement situation. He has just two tackles in the two games he's played in. He looks heavy and hurt his ankle against Arkansas. They play a 3-4 scheme. Nose guard Josh Chapman and defensive end Damion Square are very solid, but not overly disruptive. Neither evokes memories of "Mt. Cody", although Chapman has a chance to become a major force.

The linebacker unit is talented and led by MLB Dont'a Hightower who is a huge MLB and has 20 tackles. Hightower got hurt last year and does not seem as explosive as he was before the injury. Still, he's a legit All-SEC player. Nico Johnson (17 tackles) is another good player. CJ Mosley is a superb pass cover guy. It's not often you see a linebacker leading a team in breaking up passes (6 PBU). They have plenty of athletes here and play a lot of guys searching for the kind of playmakers ‘Bama always seems to have.

The secondary is really a mixed bag. Strong safety Mark Barron is playing better than anyone else on the defense with 20 tackles, a sack and an INT. Free safety Robert Lester is emerging as a star with four interceptions already. Both safeties will blitz. It's hard to get behind them, but Arkansas had a lot of success throwing deep crossing routes and Florida has that in their playbook. The corners, on the other hand are inexperienced and vulnerable, even though Dre Kirkpatrick does have two interceptions.

This defense is not bad. In fact it's better than any other unit Florida has faced this season, but this is not a great defense. The Gators need to find enough running room to keep Barron honest and take advantage of opportunities in front of Lester.

Alabama special teams to this point have been solid but largely unspectacular and probably a bit disappointing. Trent Richardson does have a KOR for a TD, but their other kick returns (10-24.2) have been relatively insignificant. They have 8 punt returns for 4.8 yards with a long of 17 by Marquis Maze. They cover kicks well, allowing just 21.4 on KOR and just one punt return for 11 yards. Punter Cody Mandell (41.0) is solid, but not great. The place kickers Cade Foster and Jeremy Shelley are a combined 6-of-7 on field goals and 20-of-20 on extra points, but the longest kick has been 44 yards.

Florida's special teams have been disappointing this year and this would be a great time for that to change. The Gators are coming off a game in which they missed another extra point, allowed a 21-yard punt return, had a kickoff out of bounds and surrendered a touchdown on a fake field goal. There's a lot of room for improvement there for both teams and if either has a great game here it would be the difference.


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