Alabama Football: Nick Saban and Pete Golding have many formation options


Alabama Football fans are more than hoping – they are expecting a more stingy Crimson Tide defense. Not that it was not improved last season. The 2020 Alabama Crimson Tide led the SEC allowing an average of 19.4 points per game.

In today’s explosive era of college football, the Tide’s 2020 points allowed average was good. In the minds of some Alabama football fans, 19.4 points might not be low enough in 2021. That hunch is driven by a concern the Alabama Football offense, while loaded with young talent, may not produce as many points as last season.

One thing is certain, at least for now, the days of physically punishing defenses, overpowering less physical offenses are in the past. Today’s game relies less on brute force and more on finesse. Defenses now must be designed to disrupt the timing of pass-heavy offenses. Defenses must have enough speed and quickness to cover multiple receivers and flexibility to also stop the run. Probably the most common defense used throughout college football is not a 4-3 or 3-4 front. It is a 4-2-5 used as a base defense providing five defensive backs.

Nick Saban and Pete Golding frequently use a nickel defense, but they have many formation options. Depending on the 2021 opponent, the Tide’s standard nickel defense may not be the best. One reason is the Crimson Tide has so much talent at outside linebacker. From Will Anderson Jr. and Chris Allen down well into the roster, the Tide is loaded with hybrid linebackers who can rush, cover, and when needed stop the run.

Alabama Football Formation Options

One guess is some variation of the Crimson Tide’s ‘Rabbit’ package could be used more often in 2021. The ‘Rabbit’ formation uses two and sometimes just one defensive lineman. In effect, it can become a 2-4-5 or a 1-4-6.

A couple of months ago we suggested 2021 is the time for Pete Golding to let the rabbits loose. To do so is certainly not old-school Alabama Football. But it does not mean more emphasis will be given to sacking opposing quarterbacks. Nick Saban values pressuring the QB, forcing QB hurries, containing the QB, so as not to give up scrambling yardage; all of equal value to sacks.

A counterpoint to more reliance on a ‘Rabbits’ package is the Alabama Football defensive line will have more depth than last season. If Freddie Roach and Golding choose, ten guys can be rotated assuring always fresh defensive linemen.

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It will interesting to see which formations get the most use. Alabama football fans will not have to wait long with Miami and Florida in the first three games.