Is Alabama's defense in for a down year?
The defensive talent that defending BCS national champion Alabama lost to the National Football League in this past April's draft has been well-documented.Go get the rest.
Strong safety Mark Barron, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower, outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, defensive tackle Josh Chapman and cornerback DeQuan Menzie were all drafted by NFL teams, which means that Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart have had their work cut out for them this offseason determining which pieces will fit best as replacements for those stars.
Losing all three starters, particularly Hightower and Upshaw, obviously weakened the linebacker corps. Even Jerrell Harris was a two-year starter. But keep in mind that Saban never rebuilds, particularly on defense. He simply reloads. And the Tide have plenty of options to fill in both on the inside and outside, including veterans Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley as well as sophomores Xzavier Dickson, Trey DePriest and Adrian Hubbard. Junior Jonathan Atchison, sophomore Anthony Orr and freshmen Ryan Anderson, Dillon Lee and Denzel Devall will also compete for time at outside 'backer.
It's a pretty good analysis from NFP's Dave Miller. As noted, the 2010 defense was very good, but nowhere near as good as the 2011 squad. This team could actually be a little deeper than 2011, although much of the talent is relatively untested vis-a-vis the veteran squad of a year ago.
To beat Alabama, opponents have to consistently move the ball down the field and score touchdowns when touchdowns are needed. The only teams to do that beat Alabama in 2010. No one did it in 2011. It'll be interesting to see if anyone can do that in 2012.