Sept. 10, 2008
ALABAMA FOOTBALL: Defensive Notebook
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – RollTide.com will break down the Alabama offense, defense and special teams throughout the 2008 season. The Crimson Tide defense will be featured each Wednesday during the year. Here is today’s look at the UA defense heading into Saturday’s game with Western Kentucky.
TIDE 5TH IN RUSHING DEFENSE: The Crimson Tide ranks fifth in the nation in rushing defense after the first two games of the 2008 season. Alabama opponents have 46 rushing attempts for 86 yards, an average of 43 yards per game and 1.87 yards per attempt this season. The top five teams in the nation in terms of rushing defense are Tennessee (29.0 yards per game), TCU (29.5 yards per game), Southern California (32.0 yards per game), Michigan (41.5 yards per game) and Alabama (43.0 yards per game). Tennessee and Southern California have played just one game this season. The Crimson Tide defense opened the season in impressive fashion by holding Clemson to zero rushing yards in the season opener. The Tigers featured the tailback tandem of C.J. Spiller and James Davis, who were held in check all night by the Tide defense. The duo was held to 20 rushing yards on 12 attempts. Last week, Alabama held Tulane to 86 rushing yards on 32 attempts.
STOPPING THE RUN: Alabama is 5-2 under Coach Nick Saban when holding opponents to less than 100 rushing yards in a game. The Crimson Tide has held Clemson (0) and Tulane (86) to less than 100 rushing yards total in the first two games this season. Alabama was 3-2 last year when opponents failed to reach 100 rushing yards in a game.
Rolando McClain: A two-year starter, Rolando McClain had a monster game against Tulane as he recorded a career-high 15 tackles, including nine solo stops, two tackles for loss (-5 yards) and one pass break-up. Through two games this season, the sophomore leads UA with 18 tackles, 10 solo tackles and two pass break-ups. He is second on the team with two tackles for loss.
UA LINEBACKERS EARNING EXPERIENCE: Three of Alabama’s four starting linebackers had never started a game prior to the 2008 season, but all four have made a significant contribution to the Tide defense against Clemson and Tulane. The Tide’s starting linebackers have combined for 47 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two pass break ups, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery this season. McClain, the lone returning starter, heads the list with 18 tackles, two tackles for loss and two pass break-ups. True freshman Dont’a Hightower is the Tide’s third-leading tackler with 11 stops in the first two games, including 10 tackles in the win over Tulane. He has also added one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Junior Cory Reamer made his first career start in the season opener against Clemson and has nine tackles, three tackles for loss and one sack this season. His best game came against Tulane, where he had seven tackles, three TFLs and one sack. Junior Brandon Fanney is also a first-time starter and he has added nine tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss this season. Fanney had his best game against Tulane, with eight stops and 1.5 TFLs.
Rashad Johnson: A former walk-on, Rashad Johnson is one of the top rated defensive backs in the SEC. He led the league with six interceptions in 2007 and was named to the 2008 Bronco Nagurski Trophy watch list and Jim Thorpe Award watch list. In two games this season, Johnson is UA’s second-leading tackler with 13 stops and is the co-leader with two pass break-ups. In 38 career games, Johnson has 148 tackles and six interceptions. He led UA with 94 tackles last season and was named first-team preseason All-SEC by the SEC Coaches and the Associated Press. He was a second-team preseason All-SEC by Athlon’s Sports, Lindy’s, Phil Steele and College Football Preview. Johnson is ranked as the No. 9 free safety nationally by Lindy’s. He earned his degree in Criminal Justice in August. Johnson was given the Mal Moore Leadership Award following spring practice.
Editor’s note: The Alabama defense will be featured each Wednesday, while the offensive notebook runs on Tuesday and the special teams’ notebook on Thursday.