I already previewed the Alabama offense under second-year coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Today I'll flip the script, taking a look at Kirby Smart's Tide defense.
Publisher's Note: In addition to TSD's standard ‘Scouting Report' format for LSU's conference opponents, the editions for Alabama week will also include quotes from Tiger players on the sides of the ball they'll be facing.
PROJECTED ALABAMA STARTING DEFENSE (3-4)
DE: Ed Stinson (6-4, 292, Sr.)
NG: Brandon Ivory (6-4, 310, Jr.)
DE: Jeoffrey Pagan (6-4, 290, Jr.)
Sam LB: Adrian Hubbard (6-6, 252, Jr.)
Mike LB: Trey DePriest (6-2, 245, Jr.)
Will LB: C.J. Mosley (6-2, 238, Sr.)
Jack: Denzel Devall (6-2, 250, So.)
CB: Deion Belue (5-11, 183, Sr.)
FS: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (6-1, 208, Jr.)
SS: Landon Collins (6-0, 215, So.)
CB: Cyrus Jones (5-10, 196, So.)
Notable Backups: Star DB Jarrick Williams (6-1, 210, Jr.); Jack LB/DE Xzavier Dickson (6-3, 265, Jr.); Will LB Tana Patrick (6-3, 238, Sr.); DE A'Shawn Robinson (6-4, 320, Fr.); CB Bradley Sylve (5-11, 180, So.)
Statistics don't win and lose ballgames, but the string of numbers below effectively illustrates just what Alabama's hard-nosed defense is about in 2013. They don't take it away a ton or sack you behind the line of scrimmage, but they also don't allow you to move forward very much or with any consistency.
Rush Defense: 101.9 yards per game (7th in NCAA, 1st in SEC)
Pass Defense: 179.0 yards per game (9th, 1st)
Total Defense: 280.9 yards per game (5th, 1st)
Scoring Defense: 9.8 points per game (1st, 1st)
Third Down Defense: 29.5% allowed (7th, 1st)
Red Zone Defense: 9 scores on 13 opportunities (T-9th, 1st)
Fumble Recoveries: 4 (T-92nd in NCAA)
Passes Intercepted: 8 (T-70th)
Quarterback Sacks: 11 (T-103rd)
Perhaps the most interesting numerical-based fact in that mix is that Alabama has only allowed opposing offenses into the red zone 13 times, easily the lowest total in the country. LSU's defense by comparison has permitted foes into the red zone 28 times this season.
It's plain to see this is just a solid defense under Kirby Smart and Nick Saban, one led by a big, dynamic front seven that's predicated on stopping the run first.
Alabama's starting three-man defensive front (Stinson, Ivory and Pagan) is a beefy group, averaging 297.3 pounds. The Tide also regularly feature Robinson, a sensational freshman who tips the scales at 320 pounds. Stinson has registered the most tackles of the D-Linemen with 27 stops (to go with 2.0 TFL, 1.5 sacks and 1 FR), but Robinson is the real threat behind the line of scrimmage. In only eight career games, the Fort Worth, Tex., native has compiled 23 tackles, 5 for loss, and 4 sacks. The mammoth defensive end will be foremost on the minds of La'el Collins and Jerald Hawkins all night Saturday.
Moving back to the next level, ‘Bama's linebackers – again bigger than many of their counterparts around the country – specialize at cleaning up messes. Mosley is the most productive ‘backer, having notched 59 total tackles (25 clear of Alabama's second leading tackler), with 5.5 of those stops coming behind the line. DePriest and Hubbard have combined for 49 tackles, 4.5 for loss. All three play very close to the line of scrimmage and will test LSU's run-blocking ability to the max.
The Crimson Tide secondary is where Alabama has been the most vulnerable through eight games. Although the total passing yards conceded is still low, Alabama is giving up 12.67 yards per completion, meaning Zach Mettenberger & Co. will have a chance to get theirs in the intermediate to deep passing game.
Injuries have also hindered the Tide in the back. Alabama will be without Vinnie Sunseri and is still in the midst of a position battle for second cornerback opposite starter Deion Belue. Currently, Louisiana native Bradley Sylve, who is coming back from a high ankle sprain, is duking it out with sophomore Cyrus Jones. Expect LSU to attack whichever player emerges from that duo.
What LSU Offensive Players Are Saying
"Every year they're pretty much the same – big, strong, physical guys that fly around to the ball. You've just got to go out there and make plays when your number's called. In games like this, you can't have any ‘my bads' because that ‘my bad' can either win you the game or lose you the game against a tough defense."
Boone on whether secondary plays more man or zone …
"They mix it up. They'll disguise and give you one look, then try to switch into another. But we have a lot of faith in Coach Cam that he's going to give us a great game plan, so come Saturday we'll have a great understanding of what they like to do."
Boone on whether it's more about game-planning for ‘Bama or improving LSU …
"One of the main things he [Les Miles] preaches is focusing on the details. It's just one of those games where the teams match up so evenly that the smallest thing can lose you the game. You've just got to understand how your opponent likes to play and have a good feel for what they like to do. That way, when you go out there, you're not seeing it for the first time. You've been watching film on your own, watching film with the coaches. Once you put the game plan in, then you can get more specific on ‘Okay, I'm going to work my technique this way since he likes to play it like this.' That way you get to the game and nothing is a shock to you."
QB Zach Mettenberger on the Alabama defense …
"They just execute at a high level. They don't make a lot of mistakes. They have some of the best players in the country and obviously one of the best head coaches in the country. It's going to be about us making less errors out on the field and capitalizing on the errors they do make."
What do you expect from Alabama's defense?