Alabama football fans are looking for change in 2019 Crimson Tide secondary. The change sought is not necessarily one in personnel, but rather in results, as in stopping the passing attacks of opponents.
The Alabama football defense got torched by Trevor Lawrence and company in the national championship game. All the blame does not fall on the secondary but on too many plays the Tide’s defensive backs were out of position or physically dominated by Dabo’s wide receivers.
Nick Saban was so displeased, the Alabama football staff now has three coaches working with the secondary. A former defensive coordinator, Charles Kelly was brought in to work with the safeties. Karl Scott continues with the cornerbacks. The third man in the trio, self-described graduate assistant, Nick Saban will continue his hands-on coaching role.
How much better does the Tide need to be in 2019? Last year’s performance was pretty good during the regular season. Though the Arkansas game foreshadowed future weakness. The Hogs, without an elite QB, completed 26-of-40 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns. The Crimson Tide finished the season allowing opponents to complete 52.7 percent of pass attempts.
When it mattered most, the stats were worse. In the three post-season games, the completion percentage allowed was 58.7 percent. Against Clemson, it was 62.5 percent. But it was not all on the back end of the defense.
Comparing Clemson and the Alabama Crimson Tide last season in sacks, the Tigers held a big statistical advantage. Per teamrankings.com Clemson led the nation with 3.6 sacks per game, with two in the national title game. Alabama football was tied for ninth in the FBS at 3.1 sacks per game. In the post-season, the Tide’s sack production slipped to a 1.7 average, including zero sacks against Clemson.
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Nick Saban brought in Sal Sunseri and Brian Baker to address the lack of quarterback pressure in big games. The veteran coaches are expected to deliver. Sunseri’s outside linebacker roster is loaded with potential sack monsters.
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Many of today’s offenses feature getting the ball out of the QB’s hands so quickly, a pass rush can be neutralized. In those cases, the major burden shifts back to the secondary. The Alabama football nickel and dime defenses are designed to counter such offenses.
If Nick Saban only used a base 3-4 defense, the 2019 secondary starters would already be known. In base, Patrick Surtain II and Trevon Diggs would be the corners with Xavier McKinney and Shyheim Carter at the safety spots.
Alabama football fans know nickel (most often) and dime are the Tide’s go-to defensive formations. When the Tide adds another corner (Star) to the nickel, who will it be? Most often in the past, it would be Carter. In 2019 it could be Shyheim or Surtain or Diggs. Moving any of the three means a fifth player must be added at safety or cornerback. The most likely moves would be Jared Mayden to safety or Josh Jobe to cornerback.