The Alabama defensive front is a tad smaller than in years past, but still very athletic. The best playmaker of the bunch is junior Ed Stinson. Stinson leads the Tide defensive lineman with eight and a half tackles for a loss, but the leading two tacklers up front are senior defensive end Damion Square and senior nose tackle Jesse Williams. Square and Stinson are just below 300 pounds but very strong at the point of attack. They don't focus as much on penetrating as they do playing to the correct shoulder of the offensive lineman depending on the defensive call. Williams tends to penetrate more than the other two, and can be very disruptive at times. The top reserves are Jeoffrey Pagan, Quinton Dial, and Brandon Ivory. In these three, Alabama has a second group they can run in on any down, and all play with a great deal of energy and physicality. All have the ability to rush the passer but none are experts at getting after the quarterback.
Alabama stands up two outside linebackers in their base set and bother are sophomores from the state of Georgia. Adrian Hubbard and Xzavier Dickson will man the outside linebacker spots and both are as big as typical 4-3 defensive ends. Hubbard is the best pass rusher of the two and does a good job using his length to get to the edge. He isn't an excellent edge rusher, but is strong enough to bull rush tackles and stunt inside to stop the run. Dickson is an excellent athlete but hasn't shown much explosion off the edge this season. He does a very good job against the run and sets the edge well. Both guys deliver a solid thump at the point of attack, but have had trouble if they are in space against shifty running backs or ball carriers in general. There have been times this season where pressure has come from this position, but it has been inconsistent.
This is one of the deepest and most talented units for the Tide. Alabama has three linebackers they use on the inside and all three are perfect fits for the defense. C.J. Mosley leads the team in tackles, is second on the team in sacks, and also has two interceptions on the year. Mosley can do it all and all of the movements within the defense are second nature to him. Trey Depriest is another inside linebacker that can make the big play at any time. Depreist is a physical, downhill player that can also go sideline-to-sideline to erase any plays going to the outside. He has flexible hips and does a good job flipping them to get into coverage. Nico Johnson is the Tide's third linebacker and he is extremely active. He is probably the third best of the three at playing down hill, but he is still very good at diagnosing plays quickly. He also has the speed to take backside run-throughs and run down the ball carrier.
The Alabama secondary is a tad inexperienced and a couple of teams, LSU and Texas A&M, have shown that they are vulnerable as well. The cornerbacks are Dee Milliner and Deion Belue. Milliner is a physical corner with elite length that can bump down to the slot and play the Star position in nickel situations. Belue is often left to the field side and has struggled with a variety of receivers this season. He had problems against Texas A&M's big receivers, and also struggled against LSU's receivers who were smaller but quicker. John Fulton and Geno Smith will also see time in the nickel and dime sets, and both are young and inexperienced. They have play making ability, but this will be their first time on a big stage so you have to wonder how they will react. Alabama will sometimes go with three safeties in their base set and it is all because of Vinny Sunseri's ability to play in the box. Sunseri is one of the most reliable tacklers in the country against the run, but can sometimes struggle in coverage and in space. Robert Lester is another of Alabama's safeties and he has proven to be a playmaker for the Tide. Lester is a big safety at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, and does an excellent job of beating the blocks of receivers and stopping plays on the perimeter. He takes excellent angles to the football, but has had trouble when asked to match up with slot receivers and tight ends down the field. He often lets them cross face too easily. Nick Perry is the Tide's third safety, and he is a solid player. Like Sunseri and Lester, he has play making ability and can jump route at times, but can also struggle when asked to match up in man coverage or when the ball is in the air.
• First down - As on every down, Alabama uses a variety of different zone coverages in the secondary and plays base defense, makes the read, and flies to the football.
• Second down and long (7 or more yards) - This is a down where defensive coordinator likes to deliver the knock out blow for the drive. He likes to bring edge pressure with hopes of getting some quick pressure from outside or on the inside stunt. The extra man is brought 59% of the time.
• Second down and medium (4 to 6 yards) - This is a base heavy down as the blitz only comes 28 percent of the time.
• Second down and short (less than 4 yards) - Alabama brings at least five rushers in a gap control type blitz just over 70 percent of the time.
• Third down and long - This is a down where Smart, regardless of personnel, likes to get five or six defensive backs on the field. He will depend on the front six or seven to stop the run and let the defensive backs get into their drops and read the quarterback. They don't bring pressure much but they love to zone blitz and overload when they do.
• Third down and medium - This is another down where Smart likes the fifth defensive back regardless of personnel, but if the offense goes with a running back and two tight ends (12 personnel) or two running backs and a tight end (21 personnel), you won't see the sixth defensive back. Still a zone heavy down but less overload blitzes and zone dogs.
• Third and short - Alabama doesn't sell out to stop third and shorts, but it does like to creep their linebackers up and let them fly down hill to fill gaps. It almost looks like the defensive line turns into an offensive line of sorts and tries to open up run-throughs for the linebackers.
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