Deficiencies Nick Saban has to fix to get Alabama back on top

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Alabama and its coaching staff will obsess this offseason on what went wrong in the final two games, specifically the final six quarters. Nick Saban and his staff were outcoached against Auburn and Oklahoma, and several areas have shown to be reoccurring problems for the Tide.

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For nine months, Saban and his players will work tirelessly and obsessively to get Alabama back on top after losing two straight games to close the season. Through all the turnovers and poor play by both sides of the ball, there are bigger problems than the Tide just having ‘an off night’.

Here are four deficiencies Saban has to address this offseason:

Cornerbacks: The biggest area of need is at corner. Of course, the corners there now are great athletes, are quick enough and smooth enough to be deemed four- or five-star prospects, but they don’t play the ball well. Many teams don’t have corners that have the skill set to play the ball well while it’s in the air, but Alabama is a team that has, especially with Saban’s baby being the secondary. Cyrus Jones, Jarrick Williams, Deion Belue, Eddie Jackson, John Fulton and Maurice Smith, among others, aren’t Dre Kirkpatrick or Dee Milliner. And teams took advantage of it, namely Texas A&M and Oklahoma, two teams that sliced and diced the secondary to pieces. There’s talent on the team, but Saban hasn’t felt good about both corners all season. They’re lean and athletic, but they lack the biggest key ingredient that makes Alabama’s defense so dominant: ball skills.

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Pass rusher: Now, going hand-in-hand with poor corner play is the lack of a pass rush. Had Alabama had more of a pass rush, the corners likely wouldn’t have given up as many explosive plays. There’s not a Courtney Upshaw or a specific type of pass rusher as an outside linebacker or rush end that makes the Tide’s defense scary. We thought Adrian Hubbard had a chance to be that guy; he’s not, or he hasn’t been thus far. Is he on campus and we just don’t know about him yet? Maybe, but that type of player hasn’t been there for the last two years.

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Teams with tempo: The biggest reoccurring theme for Saban’s defense comes against teams with tempo, and it’s proving to be the Tide’s Achilles heel. Texas A&M, Auburn and Oklahoma all out-executed the defense, and they all used one word Saban hates: tempo. Saban can’t sub players in and out of the game to create matchup problems because offenses aren’t huddling. Saban and Kirby Smart love bulkier linebackers and defensive ends, and teams have found a way to combat that with the hurry-up, no-huddle scheme. Saban is going to have to recruit specific types of lighter defensive players at defensive end and outside linebacker while maintaining stout line of scrimmage play. OU’s tempo had Alabama’s defensive line huffing and puffing throughout the first half, and that had an effect on the second half conditioning. How Saban defends and combats the hurry-up will be one of the most fascinating things to keep an eye on in the near future.

Tight end: The offense misses a tight end like Michael Williams, a road grader who fits in the power running game. Yes, I thought Alabama went away from the running game too early against OU, but there are deficiencies at tight end; it’s shown the latter portion of the season. I know OJ Howard is a total freak and is going to be a great player, but he isn’t exactly the type of tight end I’m talking about. And while the current tight ends with Howard and Brian Vogler are poised to be bigger offensive threats as a whole, the Tide need a road grader at the position. That’s an area where the offense can improve in 2014.

Photo Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

COMMENTS

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  • First, 11-2 hardly warrants “needs fixing”. As for the road-grating TE, just put an extra guard or tackle in the game. Last, as for the “needs fixing”, please let this happen slowly. As a fan of a different team in the (nearly) impossibly difficult SEC West, we could all use a couple of “down” years for Alabama (down for Alabama is still 9 wins). I know this will set off some Tide fans, but you’ve enjoyed 3 NC’s in the last 4 years. You’ll be fine…..

    • Yep. To an Ole Miss fan 11-2 is awesome. I’m a gamecock and I’m happy with it. Their fans will not be. Winning the 3 championships will spoil you for sure. Nobody wants to get worse, you want to get better.

      • Being spoiled has long been the bane of Bama fans. We forget under the greatest coach ever, Bear Bryant, we lost similar back to back games to Auburn and Texas in 72. He lost to Notre Dame regularly. In 1970 he lost to USC, Ole Miss, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn in the same season. So, a little perspective if you please. Comparing Saban and Bryant is comparing apples and oranges. Bryant was never ruffled. Saban get hot under the collar pretty quickly. Bryant knew Xs and Os but his gift was his inspiration of players. Saban’s gift is he IS the Devil in the details. Both are Hall of Fame caliber coaches and both will be legends for a long time to come in Tuscaloosa. Saban will fix the problems. He’s already got some serious commits on both sides of the ball. Bama fans need to look at this season as a gift. We had many of the same issues as we did in ’10 when we lost 3 games. Next year we will be in the hunt again, I promise you that…

        • Don’t doubt that at all, just hope Bama has a few down years so that others in the West can catch up. Bama winning 11, 12, 13 games a year makes competing for the West extremely difficult. Bama winning 9 games a year for a couple of years evens things out. No hating or trolling, just hoping…..

  • Congrats to Bama on another great season. There will never be another Bear. But enjoy football for what it is, just a game.

  • 3? Last time I looked Bamer had more championshps than three? An how do you keep getting better than finishing first? The bar is high at Bamer. But, there are some other pretty good programs around the country that can get you every now and then. I know their unrealistic fanbase will never understand that. But , hey they will just be sooooo broken hearted when they are beaten sometimes. And if Awburn wins the NC? Oh what pain !!

    • Oh what pain? Really? Born and raised a Life long Bama fan and I have to say that I am pulling for Auburn to win the NC for a couple of reasons…..1st…….I would much rather we lose to an eventual National Champion…….2nd……SEC……we have the best conference in college football, so to keep all of the SEC teams at the top we must produce winning teams….that makes it the best conference…….so as disappointed as I am at our loss I am pulling for Auburn so when we beat them next year we can say we beat the reigning National Champ…….ROLL TIDE…….GO SEC.

  • I would like to see different defensive sets instead of going strictly with the three man front; its hard to get a balls to the wall pass rush from that set. Rushing linebackers or using situational stunts are a gamble. Also, vary coverage from man to man to zone defense as needed. Keep the defense variable and not in a constant presentation.

    • It’s usually the LBs and Safeties that do the serious blitzing. What we missed all season is that huge athletic Nose Guard like Jesse Williams or Mt. Cody. Those guys always took up 2 blockers and sometimes 3, leaving the other guys to make the plays. Ivory was just not that guy and as good as Robinson is, he just doesn’t have the size those other two guys did.

  • The CBs and the tightend and the DE’s didnt throw the interceptions or drop he balls.
    What a dumb-ass review of the poor play by bama vs oklahoma.
    They were not ready to play the game mentally. The decision saban made in the auburn game to go for it all on the hail mary fieldgoal cost his team’s confidence. When making that decision he said with a loudness he did not believe his team could beat auburn in overtime. I cant wait o see what bama does next year losing a 4 year starter at QB. Is 4 or 5 losses the possibility ???

    • This wasn’t a review of the game last night; it was a review of the entire season. You can’t say they weren’t ready to play mentally against Oklahoma though; they clearly were. They just got beat by the better team last night.
      Great analysis of a loss when you’re essentially blaming it on the Auburn Kick-Six. Bring your A-game next time.

    • There won’t be much drop off. The left side of the O Line will be some concern when the Kouandjio brothers are gone but the DBs and LBs on defense will be murderers row again. Bama has 6 QBs that are all serious contenders with Cornwell and Ricky Town on the way. AJ won a NC in his first year as a starter. No reason why one of these guys who have been holding the clipboard for 2 seasons can’t step in and do likewise. You saw a preview of Derrick Henry at RB. With Yeldon, Kenyan Drake, Bo Scarborough and Altee Tenpenny, Bama will again have the deepest. strongest backfield in the nation..

      • I doubt the Kouandjio brothers will be gone. If I recall, they both have one year of eligibility left? Correct me if I am wrong. But I don’t see Arie leaving because his stock isn’t high enough, and Cyrus really hurt his draft stock this season so I’m hoping he will stay. Town is a 2015 QB so not a factor here.

  • You didn’t mention he needs to fix them. Alabama fans are the worst people in America.

  • I lived through the Dubose-Francione-Price-Shula debacle. Do you really think an 11-2 season is going to make me second-guess Saban?

  • @Hook …Lifelong SEC fan myself first game beside my Dad in Athens. 1970 Archie Manning was on the field. Have been watching and observing and listening to talk radio going to visit my parents over the years in MS. If you’re pulling for Auburn? Good on you !!! But I will say this your way of thinking is rare. I have 3 real good Alabama fan friends and they all want Auburn to get beat. And, hands down most fans I’ve heard from take a different stance than you. So yes I stand by my statment 100%.