| NEWS Alabama Crimson Tide's Nick Saban concedes defense is no longer key to victory - ESPN

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Alabama coach Nick Saban has finally relented, albeit reluctantly. He said college football has officially become an offensive game.

"It used to be that good defense beats good offense. Good defense doesn't beat good offense anymore," Saban told ESPN on Friday. "It's just like last week. Georgia has as good a defense as we do an offense, and we scored 41 points on them [in a 41-24 Alabama win]. That's not the way it used to be. It used to be if you had a good defense, other people weren't going to score. You were always going to be in the game.

"I'm telling you. It ain't that way anymore."

And how's that sit with Saban, one of the foremost defensive minds in the game and the architect of some of the more dominant defenses in college football over the past two decades?

"I don't like it," he said with a wry smile. "But we just have to make sure we have an offense that's that way and that explosive, which we have."

The No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide, who face Tennessee on Saturday at Neyland Stadium, have scored 35 or more points in each of their past 17 games going back to the start of the 2019 season. They've scored more than 40 points in 13 of those 17 games. Saban noted that the teams winning last week in the SEC averaged 33.2 points.

"It's hard to coach defense now, because there are so many run-pass concepts in what everybody does," Saban said. "I mean, it's really, really hard to coach the secondary ... because you get so many mismatches back there."

While Alabama ranks second nationally in scoring offense (48.5 points per game) and fifth in total defense (561.3 yards per game), the Tide are 37th in scoring defense (28.8 points per game) and tied for 61st in total defense (458.3 yards per game).

"We're not very good on defense, average at best, but I think we will get better," Saban said, adding that to be elite on defense requires being especially good in the secondary.

"We're going to get there, but this group [in the secondary] doesn't have enough experience. You've got to go through growing pains with these guys because they see so much stuff now in college football. We see something different every week."

Saban said part of the difficulty in developing elite defensive backs and having them ready early in their career is that most of the best athletes and skill players are playing offense now in high school and that very few play on defense. In fact, Saban said he worked senior receiver DeVonta Smith at cornerback in preseason camp to have him ready in an emergency situation.

"None of these skill guys grow up playing defense, from junior high, high school or whatever," Saban said. "So all of the best athletes end up playing offense. One of the best corners on our team is [Smith]. This year in camp, I trained him at corner. He can cover anybody, and he never played defense in his life because he was on the offensive side. You don't think Jaylen Waddle would be a good defensive back?"

Saban, who turns 69 this month, said the scare last week when he initially tested positive for COVID-19 only reinforced how much he enjoys coaching and being out there on the field with the players.

But anybody thinking he might have gotten a taste of retirement when he was isolating at home for those three days might want to think again.

"I did exactly everything I would have if I were in the office every day," Saban said. "I was in meetings with the players on Zoom, Zoomed in on the special-teams meeting just like I was in my regular seat. I was in the defensive backs' meeting, the defensive meeting and on the phone with coaches during practice. And when practice was over, we'd watch the tape on defense, offense and special teams."

Saban joked that his wife, Terry, asked, "Is this what you do every day for 14 hours?"

Later that evening, she asked Saban if he wanted to walk to the lake.

"I said, 'No, I've got a meeting in 15 minutes,'" Saban said.

Saban said the hardest part was waiting for the test results before the Georgia game. He needed three consecutive negative PCR tests, per SEC guidelines, to deem the first test a false positive, which Saban said Friday was an antigen rapid test.

"I was just praying I would be able to get there," Saban said. "I would have felt horrible if the team didn't play well or if we had lost the game because I wasn't there, not that we would have lost because I wasn't there, but I would have felt that way. The players and the coaches did an outstanding job of not letting it affect them during the week."

Saban had warned the players that this season was going to be filled with disruptions and to be braced for them. But he never envisioned he would be one of those disruptions.

"I told them, 'This is going to be the norm, that every week something's going to happen. Somebody's going to test positive,'" Saban said. "So when we had the team meeting on Wednesday after I initially tested positive, I said, 'You guys know there's got to be something damn sure up for me not to be there.' But I said, 'This is one of those disruptions that I was talking about, and just because it's me, we're still going to manage it.'

"Everybody in the building did a great job."
 

RollllTide!

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Clemson still has a good defense
 

mando

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Hate to hear Saban say this, Maybe he is saying it will not be what it was but the D has to be better than it is. I guess Saban is saying our D will get better as the secondary gains more experience. Honestly I still think the problem is fundamentals and at the DL but what do I know? No way if we clean that up we aren't better than we are. Done beating the dead horse for now....
 

Crimson&WhiteGecko

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Clemson has a good/decent defense by the playoffs. But because their conference is complete trash the substitute more players, especially on defense throughout the season that develop depth better than anyone. So the players know the defense & are more naturally playing instinctively than most.

I am convinced the off season has greatly impacted the tenacity of defenses across the board. Turns out UGA's defense was "great" because they haven't really played a good offense. They looked like a decent defense by the end of the game & the second half exposed them despite how much they rotate players.

CNS really shared something that I am certain most (if not none of us) thought was an issue with having enough talented players ready to play CB by college. And I had no clue how this defense was figuring things out. He gave us a peek to convey how much difference experience & speed make a difference. I know we certainly don't have a Minkah in the backfield & he was an absolute game changer.
 
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Nick's not throwing in the towel but he has his hands on the towel. Tubbs and Bob Stoops were pretty good defensive coaching minds but neither could build great defenses later in their career due to the high octane offenses. Clemson's Venables has been around the high power offenses longer than most but the ACC doesn't have anybody near the firepower of the Big12 or todays SEC.

I remember reading an article about Baylor when Art was running the show and his DC stated that they only practiced RedZone defense because that was the most important part of the field to defend and the shorter field to defend was a plus. Crazy.
 

TerryP

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You know my reaction and thoughts here so I might as well leave it be: can't. 😈

I don't see a "maybe" here. He was as clear as he could be; "I'm telling you. It ain't that way anymore."

When is comes to my preference, my roots, it's defensive football. Personally, I LOVE the 9-6 ball games—the games where two touchdowns and a field goal win the game (and in some cases decisively.) I long for the days of yesteryear even though they are only a few years past.

I love what he's saying here and it's not because it's what I've been saying for over two years now. I like it because he's left no doubt that the days of defense winning ball games are no more; it's an offensive game now. Using the term "efficiency" encapsulates a lot of what's said here. Like @JoseyWalesTheOutlaw and his point with Briles, it's about the score and who's put up more with the opportune stops.

If anything I hope this squelches the volume of those who want that defense that only allows 11 points per game (or what every your choice of score might be.)

It's not what I want football to be. It is what football has become. The collegiate football world forced the game to be played the way it is and we're lucky enough to have another poison they can choose.
 

mando

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@TerryP I think you may be as hard headed as I am :). Will you at least give me it should be better that what we have seen so far and we will hopefully improve? It needs to improve. I am no longer arguing 2011 but I am arguing it should be better than it is.
 

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I've agreed with that all season. I don't know "how much better" is realistic in these first few games.

Just as an example: Taking the wrong pursuit angle leads to missed tackles. Pursuit angles are improved with reps (what you're calling fundamentals.) When we consider no spring and a severely altered fall (camp and practices.) The old cliche about being behind the eight ball fits in my view...a team a little handicapped from the start. We're seeing this across college football.
 

mando

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@TerryP Hey I keep trying to select text and quote then insert quote and I get this:

1603560774135.png

I am doing the same thing I have always done. Any ideas?

Anyway regarding the "how much better" argument. I want us to get to hold teams to around 300 yards/game and between 15-20 points per game. Not sure how realistic...
 

TerryP

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I don't know why you're seeing that unless you had a momentary network change.

With some teams those numbers aren't unrealistic. It can't be expected across the board as a whole in my opinion. I'd have to look to be sure but I'd guess there are less than 20 teams across the NCAA as a whole that are allowing fewer than 20 points per game. I'd bet a quarter to a third of that group hasn't played four games this season (IE: Wisconsin will be there only allowing seven points last night. Air Force and FAU are likely there as well with only one game played.)

I don't get why it's difficult for people to separate the numbers seen from teams like UGA when compared to Bama considering there's only one offense in the east with the firepower we've seen in the west.
 

alabamajack

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I agree with everything you say but I have seen a big improvement in our defense the last couple of games. I think we can score 35+ on any team out there including clemson. We just need to hold teams to one less point than we score.
 

musso

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I just made this same point today to someone ... after reading the aforementioned article with Saban's candid admission, I don't know why defenses don't just give up defending the whole field. Why not just allow big plays to, say, their own 40 or so, and then begin seriously defending. It would be less field to defend, and your defense would be playing fewer plays and stay fresher longer into the game. But as I was saying this, I wondered silently to myself, "Maybe that's what some DC's are already doing." Saban made a remark, I think after the Ole Miss game, saying that what matters more than statistics is how many defensive stops a team can get. He seemed to be saying the inverse of traditional defensive football -- rather than focusing on how many scores you surrender, focus on how many punts/turnovers you can force. He also said something about a "bend-but-don't-break" approach.

So I wonder if Saban or any other coaches are already playing "prevent" until offenses cross midfield. That's what I'd do, anyway.
 

mando

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Saban is not playing prevent defense. You are seeing man bump and run coverage. Looks like the same philosophy but there have been a lot of busted assignments and missed tackles. If he were playing prevent no one would be throwing over the top. I do agree they are getting better.

Saban did make a comment (I think on his Thursday show) that I found interesting and had not heard anyone mention it. He said something about Kiffin had 3 pages of notes on things that he learned while at Bama that gave Sabans Defenses fits.
 

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