How do teams get better in college football?

They shore up their biggest weaknesses.

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart recently sat down with 680 The Fan for an in-depth interview. Among other things, Smart reflected on the Ohio State loss in the College Football Playoff.

One interesting takeaway was Smart talking about his defense not respecting Cardale Jones, the Buckeyes’ third-string quarterback. 247Sports had the transcript from the interview, and here’s a portion of it.

“I’ve coached about 15 years – it was the most different situation we’ve ever had because of the quarterback situation,” Smart said. “So you’ve got one quarterback on tape (Braxton Miller), then you’ve got another quarterback on tape (J.T. Barrett), then you’ve got one game on the quarterback (Cardale Jones). And looking back, we have exit interviews with our players, and when you look in hindsight, I asked every kid, Landon Collins, Nick Perry, Jarrick Williams, the really smart seniors on our team, I said ‘Where did we go wrong? What did we do wrong?’

“All three of them said they did not respect the quarterback, and our job as the coaches was to make them respect the quarterback…”

As coaches, it’s your duty to make your team respect their opponents, and leaders on the football team have to relay and impress upon that to the younger players. That obviously didn’t happen.

However, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the interview was Smart talking about Alabama bringing in former Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman — now the head coach at Houston — for a consulting gig. Herman had already accepted the Houston coaching job before the College Football Playoff started.

“It makes you look at everything,” Smart said. “I’ll tell you the best thing we did, and I give Coach (Nick) Saban a lot credit, we went directly to (Herman). We flew him in. We said “Hey, look, we want to meet with you. You know us better than anybody. You spent four weeks getting ready for us. What’s our tendencies? What do we do wrong? What do you think?’ And he was honest with us, he just told us what he thought. It was very valuable for us.”

Alabama has continued to struggle defensively against spread-’em-out offenses like Ohio State and Auburn. There are a myriad of reasons why the struggles continue, but realizing your weaknesses and hearing them from a coach who studied your defense extensively certainly helps.