The 2020 Alabama Football defense did not get enough credit. The 2021 Crimson Tide defense will have to do even more.
This is the first of a three-part series on the 2021 Alabama Football defense. Part one discusses the new secondary. Parts two and three will cover the linebackers and defensive line.
Thanks to Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss, the 2020 Alabama Football defense did not get much love. The Tide’s defensive reputation remained sullied all season after giving up 48 points and 647 yards to Kiffin’s offense. Season stats provide a different assessment of the 2020 Crimson Tide defense. Per NCAA data, only 12 FBS teams were better than the Crimson Tide in Scoring Defense average. None of them played as many top offenses as did the Alabama Crimson Tide.
With a per-game average of 19.38 points per game, the Crimson Tide was No. 1 in the SEC. In the national rankings, Georgia was close behind the Tide at No. 16 and Texas A&M was No. 28. No other SEC teams were close.
The explosive 2020 Alabama Football offense garnered more attention than did the Tide defense. It deserved the recognition. Many Alabama football fans presumed the Tide’s 2018 and 2019 record-setting offenses would hold team records far into the future. The 2020 Crimson Tide offense set new records. Offensive production of 48.5 points surpassed 2019. At 541.6 total offense, yards-per-game, 2020 beat 2018. Average passing yards at 358.2 eclipsed the old record set in 2019.
A fair presumption for 2021 is the Alabama Crimson Tide offense will not beak 2018, 2019 and 2020 records. Losing three starting offensive linemen, Mac Jones, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle and Najee Harris pretty much guarantees less offensive production in 2021.
The Crimson Tide defense will have to carry a bigger load. It too has some holes to fill, but nothing like the Tide offense. Basically, the Tide defense must become better while replacing Patrick Surtain II, Christian Barmore and Dylan Moses.
None will be easy to replace but Nick Saban has a deep reservoir to provide new starters. Between the two of them, Moses and Barmore combined for 117 tackles last season, including 16 tackles-for-a-loss and 9.5 sacks. That is considerable production, but even harder to replace will be PSII’s contribution. Surtain’s numbers were a bit deceiving. Teams avoided targeting him. Even so, he led the team with 12 pass breakups.
A new starting cornerback is the most important task facing Nick Saban and whoever replaces Karl Scott. Fortunately, the Tide roster is filled with talented replacements. Five guys have the best shot at replacing PSII. They are redshirt junior, Jaylin Armour-Davis, junior Marcus Banks, senior Ronald Williams, JUCO transfer junior, Khyree Jackson and redshirt sophomore Brandon Turnage.
Armour-Davis and Banks have plenty of practice field credibility. Neither has significant game experience, with Armour-Davis having played in 18 games and Banks in 16. Most of their experience has been on special teams.
Former JUCO, Williams and new JUCO transfer, Jackson have considerable playing experience as two of the best JUCO cornerbacks of the last two seasons. Williams missed a chunk of last season with an arm injury. Jackson will not enroll until summer. Ga’Quincy McKinstry is on campus and can’t be ruled out for the cornerback two-deep. Though not impossible, Kool-Aid breaking through the pack to start in 2021 is unlikely.
Last season’s freshmen phenoms, Malachi Moore and Brian Branch could replace Surtain II but Moore is expected to play cornerback again at the star position.
Jordan Battle and Demarcco Hellams are expected to start at the safety positions. Branch will be in the mix there as well. The guy not on the field in the nickel will join at money in the dime unit. Highly touted freshman, Terrion Arnold might be the ‘Malachi Moore’ of 2021. Arnold will not have the benefit of spring practice, but neither did Moore last year.
The official Crimson Tide roster is available here. It does not include the summer enrollees.
There’s more to come on the linebacker and defensive line positions. The ’21 Tide defense series will continue this week.
— to bamahammer.com