Alabama’s lost its defensive coordinator and its defensive backs coach, but it’s only gonna get better.
Last season, under secondary coordinator Melvin Tucker, Alabama was in a zone scheme more than we’ve seen in years past. That is not a coincidence either.
In 2014, Alabama faced an unreal 495 pass attempts, yielding over 3000 yards through the air and 24 passing touchdowns surrendered (24th S&P passing defense.) In 2013, Alabama faced nearly 30 passes per game, and gave up 13 passing touchdowns; still, opponents were very efficient, as the Tide was just 32nd in S&P passing defense.
With several young players cracking the 2015 rotation, and with Alabama’s inability to get its man-defense up to the levels the Crimson Tide is accustomed to, Tucker simplified the schemes, put an emphasis on creating turnovers, and went to much more of a zone look to protect against the deep shot that had been Alabama’s bane the previous three seasons. Alabama finished 3rd in S&P pass efficiency defense last season; really only being torched in one game against the Heisman runner-up. Alabama surrendered 13 touchdowns in 14 games, before allowing four to Deshaun Watson, half of which occurred in a wild fourth quarter.
With Tucker’s departure, Nick Saban brought in former Troy DB Derrick Ansley to compliment Jeremy Pruitt’s more aggressive scheme. And, yes, Pruitt is considered somewhat more aggressive than Kirby Smart, blitzing well over 60% of the time during FSU’s title run. Last season, a Georgia secondary that had been somewhat maligned in years past finished the nation with the No. 1 pass efficiency defense in the country, and Georgia had the No. 1 defense against explosive plays allowed. Both bode well for an improved Tide team that nevertheless finished 7th and 9th in those categories.
Bully for the Tide. What does it mean for Georgia? I’m not sure it means much, for one big reason: Georgia’s front seven in 2016 isn’t going to be anywhere near the quality of Alabama’s 2015 front seven. Tucker played a ton of zone because he knew he could get away with it, due to Alabama’s dominance up front. And Pruitt blitzed a bunch last season because he had to enhance the pressure that Georgia’s defensive front usually delivered. Given that both shoes are now on the other feet, isn’t it likely we should expect each to gravitate a bit more towards the other in their approaches?
UPDATE: Here’s some of what I’m talking about.
… The theory is that the previous defensive staff used Floyd and Jenkins’ pass-rushing prowess to “protect” the young secondary, which benefitted by being in better coverage situations.
Not surprisingly, Floyd and Jenkins agree.
“That definitely was a goal me and Jordan had set going into every game: Make the quarterback get rid of the ball as quick as possible so the DBs can cover,” Floyd said.
“We definitely wanted to take some of the stress off the younger DBs. Because we didn’t want to put them in a lot of man-on-man type situations,” Jenkins said. “We knew they were younger, and we just wanted to make it easier for the freshmen coming in.”
That doesn’t mean Jenkins thinks the secondary was overrated.
“Oh no, there are still some good athletes back there,” Jenkins said. “We just wanted to eliminate that from even being in the mindset. We wanted them to be able to go ball out and play without worry.”