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Alabama Football Notebook: Defense and Special Teams



Sept. 16, 2009

DOMINANT ‘D’: Alabama returned eight starters from a 2008 defense that finished third nationally in total defense, allowing just 263.5 yards per game. The 2009 unit is out to an outstanding start, as well, allowing a total of 184.5 yards per game in the first two outings of 2009. Alabama followed up an impressive debut against Virginia Tech with a stellar performance against Florida International. Alabama held Tech to 155 total yards (64 rushing, 91 passing) and 11 first downs while limiting Tech to 2-of-12 on third down conversions and racking up five sacks. Against FIU, Alabama held the Panthers to 214 total yards, including only one yard rushing and 13 first downs. In 2008, Alabama finished second nationally in rushing defense, surrendering 74.14 yards per game. Alabama ranks fifth through two games this season, allowing 32.5 yards per game, and is 10th nationally in total defense (184.5 ypg).

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS: The Alabama defense leads the SEC in rushing defense (32.5 ypg), sacks (5.0 per game) and tackles for loss (10.0 per game) this season. The Crimson Tide has held Virginia Tech and FIU to a combined 65 rushing yards in the first two games, which ranks fifth nationally at 32.5 yards per game. Tech managed 64 rushing yards (31 attempts) in the season opener, while FIU netted one yard (26 attempts) in week two. The one rushing yard allowed by Alabama against FIU was the lowest total since the Tide held Clemson to zero rushing yards (14 attempts) in the 2008 season opener in Atlanta. UA also ranks 10th nationally in total defense, allowing just 184.5 per game.

STIFLING DEFENSE PUTTING UP IMPRESSIVE NUMBERS: Alabama’s defense over the past 16 games – or two seasons – has developed a reputation for its toughness and talent. That reputation has been verified by the stat sheet. The Crimson Tide has held 14 teams under 100 yards rushing over the past 16 games as only LSU and Florida in 2008 were able to crack the 100-yard barrier as a team. The Tide has surrendered just 1,103 yards on the ground in the last 16 games, an average of 68.9 yards per game. Also, no individual running back has cracked the 100-yard mark since Mississippi’s BenJarvus Green-Ellis went for 131 on Oct. 13, 2007, a span of 21 games. The Alabama defense has also held opponents under 200 yards of total offense in seven of the last 16 games, including a 155-yard effort by Virginia Tech in the 2009 season opener. The sub-200-yard games in that span: Clemson (188); Western Kentucky (158); Tennessee (173); Arkansas State (158); Mississippi State (167); Auburn (170); Virginia Tech (155).

DEFENSE TOUGH ON THIRD DOWN: The Crimson Tide defense has been strong on third down through two games in 2009, holding Virginia Tech to just two conversions on 12 third down attempts (16.7 percent) and Florida International to a 7-for-17 (41.1%) success rate. That continues a trend for the Crimson Tide after UA finished third nationally in third down conversion defense in 2008, holding opponents to a 28.14 percent (56 of 199) conversion rate.

GETTING INTO THE BACKFIELD: Pressure in the backfield was an area of emphasis for the Alabama defense in 2009 and the hard work in the off season has reaped results thus far with 10 sacks for 76 yards in losses through two games and 20 tackles for loss for 91 yards. The Crimson Tide has had five sacks in each of the first two games of the 2009 season, which is the most since also recording five against Middle Tennessee state on Sept. 3, 2005. Alabama has 10 sacks in its first two games of the season and ranks second nationally with 5.0 sacks per game. Sophomore defensive lineman Marcell Dareus leads the Crimson Tide with 3.5 (-25) sacks this season, while junior linebacker Rolando McClain has two sacks (-19). The Crimson Tide also has 20 tackles for loss in its first two games. Alabama leads the SEC and ranks fifth nationally with 10 tackles for loss per game. Sophomore defensive end Marcell Dareus (-25), junior linebacker Rolando McClain (-22) and sophomore linebacker Dont’a Hightower all have 3.5 tackles for loss in the first two games of the season.

FORCING TURNOVERS: Alabama has forced 52 turnovers in the first 29 games under head coach Nick Saban, an average of 1.79 per game. The Crimson Tide has forced three turnovers in the first two games this season, after forcing only two turnovers at this time last year. Alabama forced 24 turnovers in 2007 for a plus-4 turnover ratio. Last year, Alabama recorded 25 turnovers and ended the season with a plus-6 turnover margin. Alabama has recorded at least one turnover in 25 of the 29 games under Saban. The Crimson Tide is 19-6 under Saban when they have at least one turnover. Alabama is 2-2 in games without a turnover over the last three seasons.

DAREUS MAKES A NAME FOR HIMSELF: Following an exceptional fall camp, sophomore defensive lineman Marcell Dareus has started the 2009 season with a pair of strong outings, following a breakout game in the season opener against Virginia Tech with another excellent performance against Florida International. Against Tech, Dareus had two total tackles, including 1.5 sacks, as he harassed Tech signal-caller Tyrod Taylor into 9-of-20 passing for just 91 yards. He followed that up with a four-tackle outing against FIU during which he posted 2 sacks for 17 yards in losses.

DEADERICK UNDAUNTED: Senior defensive tackle Brandon Deaderick completed a miraculous return to the playing field with an appearance in the Crimson Tide’s win over Virginia Tech, just 5 days after being shot by an unknown assailant on August 31. Deaderick, who suffered non-life threatening injuries to his left forearm and hip in the incident, was cleared for action by team doctors. He saw his first action on special teams with 6:35 left to play in the first quarter on Virginia Tech’s point-after conversion following a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that tied the game at 6-6. Deaderick saw action on defense with 3:00 left in the first quarter. He finished with one solo tackle vs. the Hokies.

TIFFIN TIES HIS FATHER ON ALABAMA’S CAREER FIELD GOALS LIST: Senior placekicker Leigh Tiffin converted two field goal attempts against FIU, making good on attempts from 23 and 29 yards. The two field goals gives Tiffin 59 in his Alabama career, ranking him tied for third place in Crimson Tide history behind Philip Doyle (78 from 1987-90), Michael Proctor (65 from 1992-95). He is now tied with his father, Van Tiffin (59 from 1983-86) on the Alabama career field goals list.

TIFFIN NAMED LOU GROZA “STAR OF THE WEEK”: Senior place-kicker Leigh Tiffin was named a Lou Groza Award “Star of the Week” on Sept. 8 after converting 4-of-5 field goal attempts against Virginia Tech, making good on attempts from 49, 34, 43 and 20 yards. That matched his single-game best at Alabama previously achieved three times (vs. Tennessee, Oct. 20, 2007; Mississippi State on Nov. 10, 2007; Clemson on Aug. 30, 2008) and ranks second in Alabama history (6 by Philip Doyle vs. Southwestern Louisiana on Oct. 6, 1990).

ARENAS BREAKING SPECIAL TEAMS RECORDS: Javier Arenas enters his senior season near or at the top of almost all of the Crimson Tide’s punt return records. He is a preseason Playboy All-American as a return specialist and a first-team All-SEC selection at cornerback. He is one of the most dangerous return men in the country and Alabama’s career leader in punt returns yards in a game, season and career as well as touchdowns. He is the active NCAA leader in career punt returns for touchdowns and punt return yards in a game. Arenas’ 13.95 career yards per punt return also ranks first on the Alabama career chart, just ahead of Harry Gilmer. His six career punt returns for touchdowns also ties the SEC record.