Things To Look For At A-Day From Nick Saban and Kirby Smart’s Defense


We’re closing in on A-Day 2014, and that means we’re finally going to get some more Bama football. This will be the first time we’ve seen the team since the disappointing loss at the hands of Trevor Knight and the Oklahoma Sooners in the Sugar Bowl. Players have left or been dismissed and more have come. Nick Saban has one goal. Reload. Today, we’re taking a look at the Tide defense, and what we should be looking for this Saturday. For the Offensive preview, go here to check that out.

The first thing I’m going to be looking for is the development along the defensive line. Bama returns most of the two deep, but starting veterans Ed Stinson and Jeoffrey Pagan are gone. Bama brought in a very good recruiting class, and the DL was a part of that. Five star Defensive End Da’Shawn Hand isn’t on campus yet, but JUCO stars DJ Pettway (who was with the Tide before) and Jarran Reed are here and will participate in the game this Saturday. Based off of the information we’ve been given this Spring, Jarran Reed is working hard for a starting job at Defensive End in the base 3-4 alignment. Sophomore A’Shawn Robinson, who led the Tide with 5.5 sacks and was second on the team with 5 QB hurries, is expected to man the other spot.

Fellow Sophomores Dee Liner and Jon Allen will also be in the mix at DE. This is a deep line, and you have to look further than just a two deep because this DL is just too deep. But before those guys take the field, someone has to start the game. As of right now, the starters look to be Brandon Ivory at Nose, with Jarran Reed and A’Shawn Robinson manning the Defensive End positions. That is some major size on the starting line. All three men eclipse 300 pounds, and all are listed at 6’4″ but don’t let that fool you. Reed and Robinson aren’t your typical 315/320 pounders. They’ve got exceptional burst off the snap to really push a pocket, and their hand usage should be something to watch. New/returning DL coach Bo Davis will be coaching these guys up, and expect big things from them. In a recent scrimmage, Jarran Reed wasn’t shying away from tackles, and he batted a pass. Without context, we’re only assuming but based off of the numbers provided, I’d say Reed has been active in the trenches.

While the three 300+ pounder setup isn’t anything ground breaking, it’s still interesting. During the A-Day game, look to see how these guys do up front, especially against the run.

It isn’t fair if I don’t list all the guys who will be contributors this season, some will be apart of A-Day (A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed, Jon Allen, DJ Pettway, Dee Liner, Dalvin Tomlinson, Brandon Ivory, Da’Shawn Hand, Darren Lake.). Others won’t whether it is because of injury or because they’re not on campus yet but you’ll notice Bama has a lot of quicker twitch guys to get after the QB and perhaps help against the HUNH.

While we’re looking to see how the quick twitch guys up front have developed and how the big hosses hold the point, the Linebackers will once again be doing their thing. Led by Senior Trey DePriest (who in the last 5 games of 2013 arguably played just as good as any Inside Linebacker in the SEC), the Bama LB corps will have to replace CJ Mosley and Adrian Hubbard. The Tide have options, starting with the battle to play next to DePriest. Reuben Foster and Reggie Ragland are in a heated competition for playing time. Don’t be surprised if we end up seeing some sort of rotation between them this season. At A-Day, expect Ragland to get the start. At Sam, Dillon Lee is the key factor. He’s not a pass rusher, but he’s a guy who played with instincts and athleticism against the run and in pass coverage. He’s also expected to replace CJ Mosley in the Dime defense. Lee was recently arrested for a DUI, which led to a recent scrimmage having Xzavier Dickson working at Jack per usual, and Denzel Devall moving over to work at Sam. There is more pass rush potential with this setup,  but don’t expect Devall to move over and take the job Lee will be desperately trying to hold on to. Another name to watch for is Tim Williams. He recently had 3 sacks in a scrimmage, and he’s only a Sophomore. He’s a quick twitch, pass rush type guy, expect him to make some plays this Saturday.

From the Linebackers, I want to see who, if anyone, steps up to the plate and can show us good things in coverage  and in being a sideline to sideline backer. DePriest has put on some weight (he’s not listed at 250) so that may not be him. Lee will have every opportunity to become that guy, but he can’t continue to make mental errors.

While the front seven is expected to be stout, we’re looking at a shaky secondary. Landon Collins returns after playing a lot at different spots in 2013. He played some Free Safety, some Strong Safety, some Star, and a lot of Money. Collins is an exceptional athlete who could probably play corner if he wanted to. He’s the leader now. He’s a Junior and is going to be expected to live up to his expectations, even if they may be a little lofty.

If you thought Bama had finally found stability at Corner, you’re probably gonna have a bad day Saturday. Eddie Jackson is going to miss a lot of time with a knee injury that requires surgery, freshman phenom Tony Brown is a little banged up, and Marlon Humphrey isn’t on campus yet. Enter Bradley Sylve and Cyrus Jones. These two have the most returning experience at Corner, but neither played particularly well in 2013. Cyrus Jones was still learning the position, but he was out of position a lot, and when he was in position he was getting physically dominated by WRs. Perhaps another year has done him some good, but by all indications, he has struggled mightily in the scrimmages so far. Sylve is a guy who actually showed flashes of consistency, but the problem seems to be assignment breakdowns with him. It’ll be interesting to see how far he has come.

If you really wanna see a heated position battle this Saturday, look to the Stars and count your Money. Yes, that was a play on words. A horrible one at that. The Star (5th DB) and Money (6th DB) positions are very important in today’s College Football. When facing spread teams, you need guys who can go and cover, but you also need guys who can help against the run. Jarrick Williams started at Star last season, and expect him to be in that same role this year. He played well all season, but had hiccups near the end of the year. At Money, it could be anyone. Landon Collins, Geno Smith, Hootie Jones. Right now it seems as though Geno has been sliding down to Money in Dime and Nick Perry comes in to play FS. Keep an eye on these positions because it’s going to be one of the more interesting position battles on the team.

With all of that said, A-Day is close, so make sure you head out to Bryant-Denny Stadium this Saturday, or at least tune in and support the Tide and check out the first glimpse of the 2014 team.