TSD is previewing the Crimson Tide on both sides of the ball. Below is a preview of the stout ‘Bama defense under experienced coordinator Kirby Smart. Included are a projected starting lineup and plenty of notes, stats and schematic tidbits on Alabama’s defense.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
NG: A’Shawn Robinson (So., 6-4, 320)
DE: Jarran Reed (Jr., 6-4, 315)
JACK: Xzavier Dickson (Sr., 6-3, 268)
MLB: Trey DePriest (Sr., 6-2, 250)
WLB: Reggie Ragland (Jr., 6-2, 254)
STAR: Jarrick Williams (Sr., 6-1, 215)
CB: Eddie Jackson (So., 6-0, 188)
FS: Nick Perry (Sr., 6-1, 211)
SS: Landon Collins (Jr., 6-0, 222)
CB: Cyrus Jones (Jr., 5-10, 194)
Key Backups: CB Tony Brown (Fr., 6-0, 198), SLB Ryan Anderson (So., 6-2, 258), DE D.J. Pettway (Jr., 6-3, 265), FS Geno Smith (Jr., 6-0, 197)
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- A lot of things, and players, stand out for this Alabama defense, but to me none more so than the outside ‘backer duo of Xzavier Dickson and Reggie Ragland. The tandem, which has played in a combined 73 games for the Crimson Tide, has teamed up to make 81 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks this season. Ragland is in on more plays as the team’s leading tackler, but Dickson is an absolute terror coming off the edge and into the opposition’s backfield. Alabama morphs in and out of its 3-4 base defense, sliding one of these guys to more of an end role, meaning Dickson and Ragland are not only super-productive, they make it difficult for an offense to know where the heat is coming from.
- In terms of overall impact you don’t go too far down the list of Alabama defenders before landing on Landon Collins. The Louisiana native is second on the team in total tackles with 54, tops on the team with two interceptions and tied for first with five pass breakups. Like Jalen Mills for LSU, Collins is a safety who frequently comes down into the box, only he’s there more for run support whereas Mills is typically covering a slot receiver. Whether lined up in the back or alongside the ‘Bama linebackers, Collins is a difference maker and you have to know where he is on the field at all times.
- Alabama excels at getting opposing ball-carriers to the ground quickly and effectively, but this has not been a Tide defense that turns people over often. Consider that ‘Bama ranks tied for 81st in the country with a minus-two turnover margin for the season. And it’s not like Lane Kiffin’s offense is turning it over that much; it’s that the defense has only forced 11 turnovers (and only five interceptions). By comparison LSU is tied for 34th in the FBS with a plus-four margin, having gained forced 17 turnovers and hauling in nine interceptions.
- The secondary is solid for Kirby Smart, but Alabama has been susceptible to the pass in 2014 – not all that often for touchdowns (save the Ole Miss game), but for certain in moving the ball between the 20s. West Virginia threw for 365 yards in the opener; Ole Miss and Arkansas passed for 251 and 246 yards, respectively, in back-to-back weeks; and Tennessee even managed 203 yards and two touchdowns through the air. What did all these games have in common? They were the only games Alabama has played away from home this season. Not saying LSU will change how it operates, but yardage is there to be gained in the passing game if the Tigers work it right.