Alabama Football: Change in defensive starters from ’19 signals major rebuild

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

The change in Alabama football, defensive starters from ’19 is remarkable.

Failures in the 2019 Alabama football season can be summarized by a few words. They are ‘Tua’s injuries’ and defensive roster ‘deficiencies.’ The Alabama Crimson Tide has moved on from both. A trio of quarterbacks is prepared to engineer a somewhat revamped offense. Nick Saban’s and Pete Golding’s defense has gone through a substantial rebuild.

The ’20 season is the first in a while when Saban is rebuilding rather than reloading the Tide defense. Only one word is needed to summarize the ’20 defense; change.

In losses to LSU and Auburn, last season’s defense was substandard. The Bengal Tigers gained 559 yards in Tuscaloosa, averaging 7.1 yards per play. In Auburn, the Tigers put up 348 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per play. The Crimson Tide defense performed better against an offensively weaker, Michigan team, yielding 4.9 yards per play.

Those stats do not reflect a trend of improvement. In terms of season, average yards per game. Auburn and Michigan were middle of the FBS pack offenses.

The 2020 Alabama Crimson Tide defense must be better – much better.  How will the ’20 defense differ from the ’19 defense? Based on Monday’s depth chart, the turnover in defensive, Crimson Tide starters is huge.

Only four defensive starters from the LSU game are expected to start against Missouri. The four are D. J. Dale, Christian Harris, Patrick Surtain II and Jordan Battle. The numbers are even less from the Auburn game, with only Christian Harris and Patrick Surtain II returning as starters.

Other statistical numbers are more staggering. 2020 returning starters from the Auburn game were credited with only three of 48 tackles against the Tigers. None of the Crimson Tide defenders who made tackles for a loss at Auburn are 2020 starters. Three Tide players broke up three passes against Auburn. None of those players are on the 2020 roster.

Against LSU’s explosive attack, Crimson Tide defenders were credited with 87 tackles. Projected ’20 starters made just 13 of the 87 stops. In that game, the Crimson Tide had six tackles for a loss and five sacks. Of the five players who produced those stats, only Christian Barmore returns and he may not start against Missouri.

The defensive production numbers listed above beg a question. Has a Nick Saban, Alabama football defense ever fielded a starting unit with so little past productivity? We don’t think so.

Take a deeper dive into troubling defensive statistics.

Next. Depth Chart Surprises. dark

Admittedly, these numbers are skewed by the 2020 return of two veteran defenders, Dylan Moses and LaBryan Ray. Even with Ray and Moses, the 2020 Alabama Crimson Tide defense remains a rebuild rather than a reload. It may take a few games but that rebuild is likely to have much-improved results.