Alabama Football: Defensive Report Card vs Tennessee

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports /
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The road struggles for Alabama football continued, as it dropped its first game of 2022 at Tennessee. The Alabama defense rolled out its worst performance in at least two years. Some would contest that it was the worst showing by an Alabama defense in Nick Saban’s tenure.

This defensive unit, which had previously looked like one of the nation’s best, allowed 52 points to the Volunteers. It also surrendered 567 yards of offense on 8.1 yards per play, and repeatedly gave up the type of explosive plays that it has been impervious to all season.

Alabama Football Defensive Line: C

The Alabama defensive line wasn’t able to provide much resistance and, like the rest of the defense, seemed unprepared to handle the Vols’ hurry-up offense. Alabama gave up 182 yards rushing on 4.7 yards per carry, its worst game against the run all season.

Jaylen Wright (71 yards), Jabari Small (53 yards), and quarterback Hendon Hooker (56 yards) all averaged north of 4.0 YPC and were able to effectively keep the Vols in manageable down-and-distance situations all game.

The defensive line generated no pass rush, recording just one sack and zero hurries while allowing Hooker to have a field day.

Byron Young (five tackles), Jaheim Oatis (three tackles), and DJ Dale (one sack) were the primary contributors for the defensive line. Tim Smith, Jah-Marien Latham, and Jamil Burroughs were heavily involved in the rotation as senior Justin Eboigbe is still inactive.

Alabama Football Linebackers: D

The Alabama linebackers, who have been among the best in the country this season, were non-impactful against Tennessee.

Inside backers Henry To’o To’o and Deontae Lawson combined to make 15 stops, but none resulted in lost yardage. This statistic is telling of Alabama’s inability to stop the run. The Vols’ offensive line always seemed one step quicker than Alabama’s front seven, allowing them to re-establish the line of scrimmage and routinely pick up positive yardage.

Bama’s trio of edge rushers dominated last week’s game against Texas A&M, helping the Tide to a narrow victory.

The Tide needed an equal or better showing from the Cheetahs to help slow down Tennessee’s dynamic offense. Instead, they were held in check. Will Anderson Jr., Dallas Turner, and Chris Braswell combined to make just eight tackles while failing to record a sack or generate a quarterback hurry. The absence of a pass rush was as critical a factor as any in Alabama’s loss.