Kirby Smart needed outside help.
Alabama’s defense had just been shredded for 42 points and 537 yards in the Sugar Bowl by the eventual national champion Ohio State Buckeyes. A defense that had been top 5 in yards allowed per game six years in a row finished 12th nationally. A unit full of future NFL Draft picks looked a step slow, finishing 59th in pass defense.
So Smart, then Alabama’s defensive coordinator, gave Tom Herman a call.
“You talk about evolution and adjusting to the competition, for us that meant talking to coach Herman,” Smart, now the head coach at Georgia, said during a coaching lecture at the Texas High School Coaches Association Convention. “We said, ‘Give us everything you got. Help us, be honest. Tell us where we stink.’”
They “stunk” where they weren’t supposed to stink.
That meant facing a fact – Alabama was built to stop a thing of the past.
“We’re built for big, physical, eight or nine in the box. How are you going to stop the run?” Smart said. “That’s a dinosaur.”
Smart’s lecture began with a chart of Alabama’s starting lineup during the 2009 national championship game. Featured prominently were nose tackle Terrence Cody (365 pounds) and inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower (260 pounds). Smart flashed to another slide displaying his 2017 equivalents to that All-American pair, John Atkins (305 pounds) and Roquan Smith (225 pounds).
The dinosaur age of Smart’s defense involved stopping 21 personnel and two-back sets. That’s what Hightower and Cody were built for. In the age of three and four-wide sets, Atkins and Smith represented an evolution. The recruiting prototype changed for Smart changed from big run stuffers to more agile prospects capable of running in space.
I would have loved to have seen Kirby’s reaction when he first realized what he had in Roquan Smith.
Anyway, read the whole thing.