Alabama Football: Can Steele outperform Golding in year one?

Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama Football welcomes back defensive coordinator Kevin Steele in 2023. Steele returns for his third stint with Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa, having previously served as the DC, director of player personnel, and linebackers coach for the Tide from 2007-2008 and from 2013-2014.

Kevin Steele replaces Pete Golding, who was with the program for five seasons. During that time, the defense for Alabama Football never met the standard from a statistical or cultural standpoint, and never showed much year to year improvement. In fact, the five defenses Golding put on the field from 2018 to 2022 were almost statistically identical.

The statistical results he produced in his stint at Alabama, as well as their corresponding national rankings, are as follows:

Alabama Football Total Defense

2018: 320.3 YPG (16th)

2019: 324.6 YPG (21st)

2020: 352.2 YPG (32nd)

2021: 320.9 YPG (7th)

2022: 318.2 YPG (13th)

Alabama Football Scoring Defense

2018: 18.1 PPG (12th)

2019: 18.6 PPG (13th)

2020: 19.4 PPG (13th)

2021: 20.1 PPG (18th)

2022: 18.2 PPG (9th)

Alabama Football: Defense has deviated from the standard

After leading the nation in total defense and scoring defense in 2017, the unit fell off dramatically with the departure of Jeremy Pruitt and never really bounced all the way back.

In the last five seasons, Alabama has ranked in the top-10 nationally in total defense only once, and has given up at least 300 yards per game in every year. Similarly, it has ranked in the top-10 in scoring defense only once, giving up at least 18 points per game every year.

Given the talent that some of these defenses had, these results eventually became unacceptable. Golding-led defenses did not show any promising signs of improvement, and 2022 was the last straw. Heading into last season, Bama returned the top defensive player in college football as part of the oldest and most experienced unit in Golding’s tenure. Still, this defense largely produced the same results that it had in previous years.

Alabama Football: Steele to right the ship?

Kevin Steele returns to Alabama Football as a veteran defensive coordinator. He is familiar with the system and with Coach Nick Saban, and he will have a lot of talent to work with. Steele intends to simplify the Crimson Tide’s defensive game plan and streamline players’ responsibilities, allowing them to focus on their strengths and play instinctive football.

Can Steele produce a better statistical defense than Golding’s units in year one? It would be considered a disappointment if he did not.

Bama will face potentially top-tier offenses in Texas and Tennessee. It will also play a handful of solid outfits with good running games, such as LSU, Ole Miss, and Arkansas. SEC opponents like Texas A&M, Auburn, and Kentucky are breaking in talented new quarterbacks and could field good offenses as well. Mississippi State returns one of the top quarterbacks in the league, but is implementing a new offensive system.

While the schedule won’t be easy, Kevin Steele has the task of bringing this defensive unit back to the Alabama Football standard.

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Here’s to hoping Steele’s 2023 defense is stingy against the run, pressures quarterbacks consistently, and generates turnovers. It’s been far too long since we’ve seen a vintage Bama defense.