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Thu Aug 26, 2010 12:19 am

Alabama Football

2010 National Champions

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Sun Aug 29, 2010 6:51 pm

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The Next Big Thing in defense: Saban's success sparks renewed interest in 3-4

Published: Sunday, August 29, 2010, 5:30 PM
Kevin Scarbinsky, Birmingham News


What do Mark Richt and Paul Johnson have in common? At first glance, not much beyond their positions as college head football coaches in the same state with backgrounds on offense.

But Georgia's dapper Richt, who loves a pro-style attack, and Georgia Tech's rumpled Johnson, who carries a torch for the triple-option, found more common ground in the off-season on the other side of the ball.

They hired new defensive coordinators who have two things in common. Georgia's Todd Grantham and Georgia Tech's Al Groh both used to work for Nick Saban, and they both believe in the 3-4 defense.

If there's a Next Big Thing emerging in college football on that side of the ball, that's it.

"If you win using a certain system, everybody is going to say, 'That's the system to go to,'" Richt said.

Alabama won the 2009 national championship, in large part, because it finished second in the nation in rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense.

The Crimson Tide piled up those suffocating statistics using the attacking 3-4 base defense of Saban and coordinator Kirby Smart.

Richt demonstrated his new-found interest in the 3-4 more than once during the hiring process. Before he landed Grantham, he offered the job to Smart. That helped earn Smart a raise at Alabama that doubled his pay to $750,000 a year. That's the same amount that Georgia is paying Grantham.

With Will Muschamp earning more than $900,000 a year at Texas as the defensive coordinator and designated successor to head coach Mack Brown, three of the four highest-paid defensive coordinators in college football are Saban proteges.

Only Monte Kiffin at USC makes more than Muschamp, Smart and Grantham.

Grantham comes from a different branch of the Saban coaching tree. From 1996 to 1998, he was Saban's defensive line coach at Michigan State. He was going to be promoted to defensive coordinator there but chose instead to join the staff of the Indianapolis Colts.

Grantham spent the past 11 seasons in the NFL, with his most recent stop as defensive line coach for the Dallas Cowboys. He turned down a chance to rejoin Saban in 2005 with the Miami Dolphins.

Saban called Grantham "a great football coach. He's somebody I would have no qualms about hiring as a defensive coordinator if the opportunity presented itself."

At Georgia Tech, Johnson changed his defensive coordinator and his defensive scheme even though the Yellow Jackets won 11 games overall and the ACC championship. He turned to Groh, the former Virginia head coach, who's known as one of the gurus of the 3-4 defense.

Groh's roots in the scheme go back decades to his years as an NFL assistant under Bill Parcells. In 1992 with the Cleveland Browns, Groh coached linebackers, Saban was the defensive coordinator and Parcells protégé Bill Belichick was the head coach.

Belichick is the 3-4's leading proponent in the NFL, where an estimated 17 of the 32 teams use it as their base defense.

The numbers are smaller in college, but growing. Rivals.com senior writer Tom Dienhart counted 14 Football Bowl Subdivision schools that will base out of the 3-4 this season. Seven of them made the switch in the off-season.

The new believers: Georgia, Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, Houston, Notre Dame, Stanford and Texas Tech. New Tech coordinator James Willis worked under Saban at Alabama and Muschamp at Auburn.

"More people are going to it," said Auburn coach Gene Chizik, who hasn't made the switch. "It gives you flexibility."

The 3-4 gives teams flexibility in recruiting and in attacking and confusing quarterbacks.

On the recruiting front, it's a numbers game. If a team's base defense uses three down linemen rather than four, it doesn't have to sign as many down linemen. And coaches say they're the hardest players to find.

"The competition for great defensive linemen in recruiting?" Auburn coordinator Ted Roof said. "Everybody wants them, and they're worth their weight in gold."

"You always struggle to find enough guys in recruiting that are defensive linemen," Saban said. "So you can play with more linebacker types (in the 3-4)."

From a schematic standpoint, Saban said, the 3-4 keeps quarterbacks, offensive linemen and offensive coordinators guessing before the snap. Any one of the four linebackers can rush the passer at any time.

"The one thing that any kind of a 3-4 gives you is better multiples to pressure," Saban said. "You're symmetrical so you can do it either way. In a 4-3, it's a little easier to read the overloads.

"And the outside backers know how to drop (into pass coverage). They know how to match patterns (with receivers). When you start dropping a defensive end ..."

He finished that thought with an example from last season. Alabama, which bases in a 3-4 but shifts to a 4-3 at times, got caught in a mismatch after one of those shifts. It allowed Tennessee to hit a seam route on its final drive to set up a potential game-winning field goal, which Alabama blocked.

On the pass play, with Alabama using four down linemen, a defensive end was forced to cover the tight end, who caught the pass.

"That happens in a 4-3 sometimes," Saban said. "If we were in 3-4 there, that would've been an outside backer."

That sequence shows that a 3-4 team can shift into a 4-3, and vice versa. Muschamp, whose base defense is usually anchored with four down linemen, believes a defense has to be "multiple" to succeed.

"Too much chocolate cake will make you sick," he said. "If you do the same thing over and over, they'll get you."

That's another advantage of the 3-4. Offensive coordinators don't see it every week, so it's harder to prepare for. Plus, with so many college offenses running some sort of spread, the 3-4 trades a down lineman who's not quick enough or skilled enough in pass coverage for an outside linebacker who is.

"There's no question," Muschamp said. "This is a speed game now. Speed kills."

It's always been a copycat game. Alabama, the team that won the 2009 national title and starts the 2010 season ranked No. 1, runs a 3-4 defense as its base. So teams such as Georgia that are trying to beat the Crimson Tide decided to join them.

"You can probably win running just about any defensive scheme," Richt said. "I mean, you can play great defense in a 3-4. You can play great defense in a 4-3.

"I think the thing that's important is your personnel, how well they understand what you're doing and how well they can execute what you're doing."

Richt then provided the bottom line.

"If somebody does something and wins with it on a consistent basis, I think more and more people will gravitate to that style."

ROLL TIDE!
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Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:02 pm

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Thu Sep 02, 2010 10:59 am

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Mark Ingram 'doing extremely well' so far in recovery

Published: Wednesday, September 01, 2010, 10:35 PM
Gentry Estes - Mobile Press-Register


TUSCALOOSA -- The day after Alabama tailback Mark Ingram underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee brought positive news for his recovery.

"Mark is doing extremely well," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said after practice Wednesday. "He didn't have a lot of swelling, which is a good sign. That has a lot to do with how quickly he can come back."

Saban wouldn't guess how long last season's Heisman Trophy winner will be out other than again confirming that he won't play for top-ranked Alabama in Saturday's 6 p.m. opener against San Jose State. Ingram has returned to meetings with the team but has not been present at practice the past two days.

Injured players at Alabama often go through calisthenics and other activities during practice, but Ingram's absence has been designed.

"He's been here, but he hasn't been on the field because we're trying to keep him off his leg so he doesn't get the swelling," Saban said, "and (he) has been really working hard on the treatment."

Saban called Ingram's injury unfortunate "because he had a great camp and was actually playing better than he ever played last year. It always saddens you when somebody is injured and can't take advantage of what they've worked hard to create for themselves and their team."

Sophomore Trent Richardson will start against San Jose State with redshirt freshman Eddie Lacy now behind him at No. 2 and junior Demetrius Goode likely in the third role.

Saban said Alabama's game plan won't change in Ingram's absence.

The biggest question regarding Ingram will be his return date after this weekend. The Crimson Tide hosts preseason No. 19 Penn State on Sept. 11 followed by trips to Duke and Arkansas, which is currently ranked No. 17.

"Sometimes these guys get over these things very quickly when it is cartilage-type stuff," Saban said. "We'll just have to see."

STILL WAITING: Saban said he is "very hopeful" the school will receive a ruling from the NCAA on the status of defensive end Marcell Dareus before Saturday night's game against San Jose State.

Dareus has been investigated in recent weeks for his attendance at an agent-related party in May.

"We have players prepared to play in his role," Saban said, "where they've practiced it, and that's 'Plan B.'"

PRACTICE REPORT: The Crimson Tide practiced inside in helmets and shoulder pads Wednesday, which is unlike the team's usual game-week routine.

"We kind of moved everything up a day," Saban said, "so today was a little bit like a Thursday practice, plus a little bit more. We want to use these two days in shells to try to get the players sort of recovered a little bit."
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Thu Sep 09, 2010 3:26 pm

Blogger roundtable: Win over Penn State would prove little

Published: Thursday, September 09, 2010, 2:59 PM
Ell from Bama Sports Report

In this edition of the al.com college football blogger roundtable, Ell from the Bama Sports Report weighs in on Alabama's performance against SJSU, Cam Newton's first game at Auburn and disappointment elsewhere in the SEC.

Alabama question: Alabama didn't struggle much against San Jose State, even without two of its best players. What did we learn from the exercise in domination? Are there new concerns unearthed against an overmatched foe? Will the absence of Dareus and (probable) absence of Ingram hurt UA against Penn State? Is it time to start booking hotel reservations in Glendale?

I'm certain - 100% certain in fact - that more than a few fans have booked reservations in Glendale. Sadly, we've learned nothing yet.

This weekend against Penn State, Alabama will learn only slightly more. All we know about Penn State is that they gave up 14 to Youngstown State. And that they've got a freshman quarterback who looked great - against Youngstown State.

If the Tide rolls this weekend (they're a 12 point favorite at this point), what will that tell us? Not a lot. Penn State could be good, they could be average, they could even be bad. It's a long season full of surprises. The scrimmages each team took part in this weekend only let us know they're not Ole Miss bad.
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Sun Sep 12, 2010 9:47 am

On our way back home yesterday we almost got run over by all the A fans racing to the football game with their window flags flapping away. Even a big long white stretch limo! Partee time!
May your troubles be less, and your blessings be more, and nothing but happiness come through your door.
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Tue Sep 28, 2010 6:05 pm

Alabama and Florida is college football's most important rivalry

Published: Tuesday, September 28, 2010, 6:00 AM Updated: Tuesday, September 28, 2010, 6:31 AM
Paul Finebaum


If you hate the SEC -- and that seems to be a growing trend -- this might be a good week to schedule a trip out of the country. The media shoved Boise State down our throats one more time last Saturday. Are you as dizzy as I am from seeing that cheesy Smurf turf in HD, to say nothing of all the hyperbole from the national talking heads?

But this week, the best conference in America takes center stage -- again. Some can try and sell OU-Texas in Dallas as the main attraction. For what? The number of fans arrested for public intoxication? All you will get out there are a bunch of sniveling Texas fans doing what they do best -- whining. Was the excuse for losing to UCLA the same as Alabama: What if Colt McCoy hadn't been hurt?

And the Pac-10 has an impressive headliner -- Oregon vs. Stanford. Sure, if you're from Eugene or Palo Alto. Can you imagine a guy in a sports bar in Philadelphia screaming at the bartender, "Hey Joe, I don't want to see this Florida-Alabama game. Turn it off! Put on the Ducks and the Cardinal."

Florida and Alabama have become the gold standard in college football. While it doesn't have the tradition and pageantry of Ohio-State-Michigan, OU-Texas, Georgia-Florida or even Auburn-Alabama, it is the most meaningful rivalry in college football today. Perhaps it's because these teams don't play each unless it's really important. This battle isn't for something stupid like the "Iron Skillet" or the "Old Oaken Bucket." The winner of this bare-knuckles brawl usually gets to play for the national title. Pretty simple, huh?

You have the two best coaches in college football. You have the immediate past history of the two most recent BCS winners. You have a game which now marks the third straight year the two have met and one of the combatants is No. 1 in the nation. In fact, this game is a tad below the normal fare since Florida is in the low rent district of the ESPN poll at No. 7. The 2008 and 2009 games matched No. 1 vs. No.2 on a neutral site.

But the odds are high that this is only round one for 2010. And you have an interesting turn of events. In 2008 and 2009, the Gators were the king of college football with Alabama nipping at their heels. Now, Florida is trying to wrest back the mantle from the Tide.

Rarely has a single game changed so much as the devastating loss Florida suffered last December to Alabama. Everyone knows the turn of events since then.

And Florida, fresh off its most impressive performance of 2010 (actually, its only impressive performance) and Alabama having come back from the abyss in Fayetteville, makes this matchup even more appetizing.

Unlike the last two meetings, this game will have more entertainment value than anything else. The loser is by no means out of the running for Glendale. There is only less room for error.

We'll save the debate for later whether a one-loss SEC team deserves to play for the national title over an undefeated Boise team or someone else. Anyone who watches college football easily knows the answer.

So the showdown is set for Saturday night. The SEC's two heavyweights are ready to duke it out.

Yes, college football has been entertaining this year with Boise's high-wire act and some of the usual suspects like Ohio State, Oklahoma and Nebraska flexing their muscle -- to say nothing of some flashy contenders like Oregon and Stanford. But the preseason is over. The two biggest cats in the game square off Saturday night in Tuscloosa.

Important, yes. But Florida and Alabama meet Saturday just for the right to do it all over again later in the year. And if you're an SEC hater, you're out of luck. It's going to be a long fall hoping college football's best league goes away.

(Contact Paul Finebaum at finebaumnet@yahoo.com. His column runs Tuesdays in the Press-Register.)
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Tue Sep 28, 2010 6:23 pm

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ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Bryant-Denny Stadium


Year Opened: 1929
First Game: October 5, 1929 vs. Mississippi
Official Capacity: 101,821
Largest Crowd: 101,821 (two times - most recent: vs. Penn State, Sept. 11, 2010)
Surface: Grass
Home Record: 208-49-3 (.806)*
Win Streak: 57 (Oct. 26, 1963 to Nov. 13, 1982)
*does not include 15 wins vacated by NCAA ruling


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ROLL TIDE!
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Sun Oct 10, 2010 7:58 am

Congratulations to South Carolina on their big win yesterday against Alabama. They are calling this an upset. No this was not an upset – South Carolina was the better team in every phase of the game.

Congratulations to Auburn and LSU on their big victories in the 4th quarter victories last night.

ROLL TIDE!
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Mon Oct 11, 2010 10:07 am

Kenny---sorry about the Tide losing. We in Cincy know all about losing--the Reds got it handed to them by the Phils and The Bengals gave it away to Tampa Bay. A bad weekend all around.
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Sat Oct 23, 2010 7:29 am

Alabama looking to regain its edge

October, 22, 2010
ESPN
By Chris Low


Alabama coach Nick Saban was asked about his offensive line earlier this week.

Never missing a chance to send a message, Saban went into an abbreviated version of what he's been hammering home to his team for the last few weeks.

"Somewhere along the line this year, we sort of lost our edge," Saban said. "I’m not talking about our offensive line. I’m talking about our team, and I’m talking about the intangible edge of playing with toughness and giving effort. We got too satisfied with winning and not playing to a standard."

The Crimson Tide have really missed Rolando McClain's leadership on defense.There are some things Saban absolutely won't budge on, and one of them is doing things the right way and playing with focus, intensity and purpose no matter what the score or the opponent.

I think back to the 2008 season and can still hear him in the adjacent locker room skewering his team following a lackluster second half against Georgia, even though Alabama won 41-30 on the road against a Georgia team ranked No. 3 coming into the game. Saban was furious, though, with how his team played in the second half.

In short, they lost their edge.

He's had his foot on the throat of this team ever since he sensed something was missing in the first half of that Arkansas game back on Sept. 18. It didn't catch up with the Tide then, but it did a few weeks later in Columbia when they had their 19-game winning streak snapped by South Carolina.

You've heard him talk a lot recently about toughness. He's challenged his team repeatedly in that area.

Is this team tough enough?

We're going to find out, but Saban said there's no question that losing that edge this season has affected Alabama's entire team.

"If we’re going to be a good football team and continue to improve, it’s going to be important that we get that back," said Saban, whose club faces Tennessee on Saturday night in Knoxville.

One of the reasons the Crimson Tide never lost that edge a year ago was Rolando McClain, particularly on defense. He was as hard on his teammates (sometimes harder) as Saban. Alabama misses his presence, not only in the middle of that defense with his productivity and all of his knowledge, but the Tide also miss him in the locker room.

"Rolando McClain was the alpha dog of that group, the signal-caller," Saban said. "Having that kind inspirational leader is always difficult to replace."
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Sun Jul 24, 2011 12:29 pm

Alabama - Some Schools Play Football...
...WE LIVE IT!!! - ROLL TIDE!!!


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Fri Jul 29, 2011 2:50 pm

Countdown to Football: 36 Days -- Can Alabama's offensive elevator continue to go up?

Published: Friday, July 29, 2011, 7:30 AM
By Mark Inabinett al.com


ImageAlabama running back Trent Richardson gets past a Michigan State defender during the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1, 2011. Richardson returns to lead the Crimson Tide attack this season. (Birmingham News/Mark Almond)

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama -- Alabama has scored more points than it did the previous year for each of the past five seasons. After scoring 263 points in 2005, the Crimson Tide scored 298 in 2006, 352 in 2007, 422 in 2008, 449 in 2009 and 464 in 2010.

Alabama increased its scoring last season even though it played one fewer game in 2010 than it did in 2009.

No SEC team has increased its point total for six consecutive seasons. To become the first, Alabama has seven returning offensive starters to rely on. But it won't have 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, two-year QB starter Greg McElroy, record-setting WR Julio Jones and tackle James Carpenter, who, like Ingram and Jones, was a first-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

Four other SEC teams also have increased their scoring for five consecutive seasons: Alabama from 1969 through 1973, Florida from 1980 through 1984, LSU from 1993 through 1997 and Ole Miss from 1997 through 2001.
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Sat Jul 30, 2011 12:43 pm

Alabama Football Recruiting Class 2011
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