Alabama Football: Crimson Tide needs its ‘Edge’ back

2020 Alabama football defense needs new, game-changing ‘Edge’ impact

When fans discuss ‘game-changing’ players, most attention is given to offensive players or return men. What about game-changers on an Alabama football defense? The Crimson Tide did not have enough of them in the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

Three signing classes strong in ‘Edge’ players should mean returned strength at affecting opposing QBs. The impact of Crimson Tide edge players will begin in the coming season. Based on current players and 2021 verbal commits and targets, the Tide should have its ‘Edge’ back, at least through the 2022 season.

After recruiting disappointments in the 2018 and 2019 classes, Nick Saban decided to never be short of pass rushers again. The Tide took big hits when Eyabi Anoma left after one season and Antonio Alfano never played a down of Alabama football. The 2018 National Championship game and the 2019 season might have ended differently if the Tide had been better at affecting opposing QBs.

‘Affecting’ opposing QBs is Nick Saban’s preferred word. Saban has often said sack numbers can be misleading. Perhaps the ‘QB Hurry’ stat is more meaningful. Such efforts to derive objective conclusions do not track all factors determining the outcome of a game. Against LSU last season, the Crimson Tide defense tallied five sacks and seven QB hurries. Joe Burrow still passed for 393 yards. The Bengal Tigers added another 166 yards on the ground.

Paul Bryant and Gene Stallings frequently contended outcomes of games, between comparable teams, invariably comes down to just several key plays. Rarely can those plays be detected in advance. Even when seen beforehand, outcomes are not predictable. But to win big games, teams must prevail in the majority of those key plays. They become literally game-changers.

In an era of such offensive explosion, ‘affecting’ an opposing QB may be more important than ever. For example, in the 2018 season, Alabama football had 45 sacks and 64 QB hurries. Against Trevor Lawrence and Clemson in the National Championship game – nada sacks and hurries for the Crimson Tide defense.

Another example is the 2019 Iron Bowl. Two pick-six Auburn TDs derailed the Tide. So did zero sacks and only two QB hurries. Getting to Bo Nix another two or three times, leading to a Tide interception, might have averted a loss.

The Alabama Crimson Tide will affect opposing QBs more in 2020. How can we be sure? Nick Saban has made it a priority. King Mwikuta and Kevin Harris have the pass-rushing skills to be impact players. From the 2020 signing class, Will Anderson, Chris Braswell and Drew Sanders could be freshmen impact players. Quandarrius Robinson has as much upside potential as any of them, even if his impact is not seen until 2021. Throw in recent 2021, verbal commit, 4-Star Dallas Turner and the ’20, ’21 and ’22 rosters will be loaded with potentially elite edge rushers.

Barring another bizarre season of injuries, the pass-rushing depth for the Tide should be outstanding. All Alabama Crimson Tide stats in this post were provided by rolltide.com.