Alabama Football: Reasons for counting on a better Crimson Tide defense

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

Preseasons are filled with optimism for Alabama Football fans. That certainly has been true in the Nick Saban Era. For valid reasons going back to the 2009 preseason, Crimson Tide fans have been confident Alabama Football would be a title contender.

It is not remarkable that optimism continues for the 2021 season. What is different this preseason is the huge challenge of roster transformation on offense. The Crimson Tide goes from one of college football’s most prolific offenses ever, to one that has a claim of great potential but sparse proof to back that claim. Depending on the gameday decision at slot receiver, the Tide will start three or four returning starters from last season. Teams having such transitions rarely contend for championship honors.

But then – because of Nick Saban’s recruiting factory and player development laboratory – the Alabama Crimson Tide is not like other teams. There is no reason to be concerned about the Crimson Tide offense. It may not match last season’s point production but scoring will not be a problem.

Alabama Football Defense will be much-improved

There is so much enthusiasm for the 2021 Crimson Tide defense, many Tide fans believe it will compare with some of Saban’s great units. A few national college football experts have said the 2021 Crimson Tide can have the nation’s best defense.

Belief is important. It becomes more valuable when backed up by facts. Let’s look at a few.

  • The 2020 Alabama Crimson Tide defense was pretty darn good. Alabama Football led the SEC in Scoring Defense last season at 19.4 points. Comparing national stats is never easy. Varying schedule strength shows a wide range of challenges for teams. The 2020 season had the added difficulty that some teams played so few games, the per-game averages are distorted. To allow for both those conditions, for this post, 2020 NCAA stats were filtered to include only Power Five teams (plus Notre Dame) and not include teams that played less than six games. Making that adjustment, the Crimson Tide was No. 4 nationally in Scoring Defense and No. 14 in Total Defense.
  • The Experience Factor – On Tuesday, Jon Chumbler tweeted some amazing data. The Tide’s 2021 defensive line group has the most career starts (53) and most career snaps (3,737) of any Tide defensive line going back to 2007. At linebacker, the 2021 unit has the most career snaps (3,710) going back to 2007 and the third-most career starts (55) going back to 2007. The Tide’s 2011 linebackers had 64 career starts and the 2013 unit had 58. The 2021 secondary has the third-most career snaps at 4,755, only surpassed by 2011 (4,845) and 2017 (5,135).
  • Overall the 2021 Tide Defense is the most experienced Saban defense – In total, prior career snaps by the entire defense, the 2021 group is No. 1 at 12,202 snaps. The next closest season was 2009 with 10,356 career snaps. In career starts, 2021 is also No. 1 at 166. The 2011 Tide defense was No. 2 at 157 career starts.

Chumbler did not cite his source for the snaps and starts data. But, there is no reason to doubt its accuracy. Hats off to him for amazing work.

In many college football programs, returning experience is overrated. A mediocre group the season before does not become great by being a season older. It is different for the Crimson Tide and college football’s most elite programs. From rosters stocked with high-level talent, many, maybe even most, players improve with each new season.

Even without considering the attributes of individual Crimson Tide players, the team facts show why the 2021 Alabama Football defense should indeed be better than last season.

The players are also confident in themselves. Check out what Christian Harris said.

Next. 2021 'D' could become the best. dark

Christian is not the only player who is excited. That is all the more reason for the enthusiasm of Crimson Tide fans.