How good has the Alabama defense been of late?
Maybe even historically good.
It didn’t seem like this was going to be the case way back on Sept. 14. That’s when Johnny Manziel shredded the Tide for 562 yards of total offense while laying 42 points on the scoreboard in ‘Bama’s 49-42 win in College Station.
But since then, Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has his talented troops playing at a very high level.
Since giving up those 42 points against the Aggies, Alabama has allowed just 26 points over the past six games, with shutouts of Mississippi and Arkansas to its credit. The Tide hasn’t allowed a single point in the first half during that stretch, which means a good chunk of the points are coming late in the game, with reserves on the field.
Alabama is allowing just 9.8 points per contest, which leads the nation. Take away that blip against A&M and the Tide is allowing 5.1 points per game and six total touchdowns on the season.
Could this be the best Alabama defense of the Nick Saban era? The 2011 unit allowed just 8.2 yards per contest, but SEC offenses were considerably less potent a couple years ago. Only two SEC teams that year averaged over 35 points per game and one of them — LSU — scored nine points against the Tide in two head-to-head meetings. But six teams are doing so in 2013 and that makes what Alabama is doing even more impressive.
There’s no secret to why this is happening. The Tide have been recruiting elite defensive talent at an alarming rate. And Saban and Smart are two of the best defensive coaches in the game. This is certainly one of the more impressive defensive runs of the modern era, as the Tide has allowed 14 points or less for six-straight seasons.
Indeed, if Johnny Football had never graced the SEC with his presence, we’d probably be talking about this Alabama defense as a historic unit.
Instead, it will just have to be content with being the best in the country in 2013.
A handful of days after Nick Saban had reportedly filled a hole in his Alabama coaching staff, the Tide officially brought out the shovel Wednesday.
The football program confirmed in a press release that Derrick Ansley has been hired by Saban to coach the Tide’s defensive backs. Ansley will replace Mel Tucker, who left last month to take the job as defensive coordinator on Kirby Smart‘s new Georgia staff.
This is a return home of sorts for Ansley as he spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons at Alabama as a graduate assistant.
“We are very happy to have Derrick and his family back at Alabama,” Saban said in a statement. “Derrick did an outstanding job when he was with us as a graduate assistant, and he has a very good understanding of how we run our program and what is expected. He is a bright young coach, and he will be a great addition working with the defensive backs. We also believe he will be a tremendous asset to our staff in the recruiting process.”
Ansley had spent the past three seasons at Kentucky, the first two as cornerbacks coach and the last in charge of the entire secondary. Just prior to leaving for the Tide, he had been named as the Wildcats’ co-defensive coordinator.
His first job at the Power Five the defensive backs coach at Tennessee (2012).
Following up on reports of a “health event” involving outgoing USC athletic director Pat Haden, the university offered up a release Wednesday night on the administrator’s condition.
According to a release, Haden is in stable condition and “resting comfortably at a local hospital” as of late last night. The 63-year-old Haden undergoing medical testing, but “plans to be back soon watching his Trojans in action.”
“He thanks all for their concern,” the release added.
Early Wednesday afternoon, reports surfaced that Haden nearly collapsed outside of Heritage Hall and was treated by paramedics called to the scene. Shortly thereafter, per reports, he was taken to the hospital via ambulance.
In the release, the university clarified the chain of events:
Haden was walking back from an on-campus meeting this morning and felt lightheaded, similar to how he felt at the Notre Dame game last October. He sat down outside Heritage Hall and the athletic department’s medical personnel attended to him. Haden was alert and talking as he walked under his own power up to his office in Heritage Hall. Medical personnel continued to attend to him there before transporting him to his doctor off campus.
A similar episode prior to the Notre Dame game last season prompted Haden to step down from his position as a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee. Lingering health issues played a role in his decision earlier this month to step down as USC’s athletic director later this year.
On Tuesday, Stanford defensive line coach Randy Hart announced his retirement. On Wednesday, the Cardinal found his replacement.
Stanford hired one of its own according to reports from Sports Illustrated and FootballScoop (where I am also a writer), pulling former assistant Diron Reynolds away from Oklahoma after one season with the Sooners.
While Stanford has not formally announced Reynolds’ hiring, Oklahoma has already confirmed his departure.
“Diron did an excellent job for us here at OU,” head coach Bob Stoops said in a statement. “This move is going to allow him to reunite with his wife and children. We appreciate the work he did and wish him the best.”
Reynolds was Stanford’s assistant defensive line coach in 2014, and prior to that spent five years in the same capacity with the Minnesota Vikings. He inherits a defense that ranked in the top 30 nationally in rushing defense and sacks.
For Oklahoma, 2016 marks the second straight season the Sooners will be on the hunt for a defensive line coach after Signing Day. OU’s hiring of Reynolds last year was necessitated when defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery left for the Green Bay Packers.
There are two types of coaching moves: the ones coaches want to make and the ones they’re told to make.
It’s with that in mind we review the news that Indiana has hired Texas A&M defensive line coach Mark Hagen to coach the same position, the Hoosiers announced Wednesday. Hagen is a former Hooiser that coached at his alma mater in 2011-12 before leaving for College Station in 2013. And Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin coached with Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson for five years at Oklahoma. If you wanted to find a landing spot for an assistant you were looking to replace, this is the type of job you would look for.
Texas A&M insider Billy Liucci, as much an insider as one can be, certainly presented this move as the second type of coaching change.
When a head coach is feeling heat, it’s often his assistants that pay the price, and especially when a high-profile coordinator is brought in, as was the case with the hiring of John Chavis.
“It’s exciting to be able to come back home again,” Hagen said in a statement. “These last three years have been fun. It’s something I felt like I had to do a few years back, but being a part of Coach Wilson’s program again and getting on board on the front end with Coach Allen is something I could not pass up. I’m looking forward to the challenge of coaching the entire defensive line and building a championship defense.”
Hagen coached one of the nation’s top pass-rushing duos in College Station in the form of Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall.