Alabama Football: One formation the key to beating Tennessee

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports /

Assuming Bryce Young will be healthy enough on Saturday to do what he does best, other Alabama football concerns take precedence. A not-quite 100% Bryce should be enough for the Tide to prevail, but the Alabama defense must contribute by limiting Tennessee’s explosive plays.

The Vols are No. 1 among SEC teams and No. 2 among FBS teams in explosive passing plays (30+ yards) with 16. Tennessee also leads the FBS in 40+ yards passing plays. Alabama must neutralize that Tennessee offensive weapon.

Complicating the challenge for the Alabama football defense is the Vols have physical wideouts. At least two of them are imposing enough to be a concern. USC transfer, Bru McCoy is 6’3″ and 220 pounds. Cedric Tillman, if available, is 6’3″ and 215 pounds. The latest news from Knoxville is Tillman is not expected to play against the Crimson Tide.

Even without Tillman, Vols’ receivers McCoy, Jalin Hyatt and Ramel Keyton are enough to force Nick Saban and Pete Golding to keep the Tide in a dime package most of the game.

The flex point is how often Alabama will opt out of two deep safeties and sneak DeMarcco Hellams into the box. A best-guess scenario for the Tide is containing the Tennessee rushing attack while sticking with a two-deep.

The Alabama defense may need to limit blitz packages and depend on getting pressure on Hendon Hooker with just four defenders. Hooker is also a threat running, so spying him with a linebacker would not be a surprise.

Alabama Football Dime Personnel

The Crimson Tide is so deep in defensive backs, the staff has many options for dime personnel. Kool-Aid McKinstry, Terrion Arnold, Jordan Battle, Brian Branch and DeMarcco Hellams are a given. Normally, Malachi Moore would round out a dime formation. But the Tide could use Khyree Jackson and possibly even Devonta Smith or Kristian Story.

Given the potentially intimidating road game environment and the rapid pace of Tennessee’s offense, Smith and Story are not likely to be called upon other than as an injury replacement.

The dime formation that should challenge the Vols the most is the rabbits package that employs the Tide’s Cheetahs, Will Anderson Jr., Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell.

Note: Team stats from

Next. Gut check for Tide secondary. dark

An additional key to help the Crimson Tide defense is for the Alabama offense to be effective in running the ball. Stringing together first downs will be a boost to keeping the Tide defense off the field.