This season, the Crimson Tide has fielded the most talented, versatile, and deep defensive line under Saban's tenure. Typically, I talk here about the players leaving and the spots they will leave open, and we all mourn together and play sad music as we prepare for the impending departure.
But have faith, fellow Tide faithful! This time is different. Brandon "Not-Quite-Terrance-Cody" Ivory and Anthony "Wait-He-Still-Exists?" Orr are the only two seniors on the defensive line. Anthony Orr has pretty much never seen the field, and Brandon Ivory is just a situational run-stopper that really only gets to play against Arkansas and LSU.
JUCO transfer Jarran Reed has put together a splendid season, and is a wild card candidate for the "SURPRISE!!! I'm going to the NFL early, sayonara suckers!" Player this year, but will more likely than not return, along with A'Shawn Robinson, Jonathan Allen, and D.J. Pettway as the main contributors. DaShawn Hand, Dalvin Tomlinson, Darren Lake, Dee Liner, and Korren Kirven will, barring transfers, also will return. The trio large freshman nose tackles- Josh Frazier, Johnny Dwight, and O.J. Smith- round out the group.
I hesitate to title this section "The Scheme" this time. I've spent almost the entire second half of the season trying to determine what scheme Saban runs on the line. After about 50 lines of notes in my notepad of jotting down the big men in on every play, you want to know what my final conclusion is? He uses every line scheme and combination of players that has ever been thought of in the history of football.
So instead, I am just going to give a quick definition of each possible position along the line. It's like a dictionary, but about football, so maybe not as bad as a dictionary. More like a thesaurus, because that is a much cooler sounding book.
Obviously, coaches don't always agree with their naming and terminology, but for the purposes of this article, here is a quick graphic I made to visualize everything:
The happy circles all represent the five lineman and two tight ends right before the have to block Alabama's defensive line for the first time. The letters represents gaps, where the "A gap" is between the guard and center and so on. Each of the numbers represent where a defensive lineman will line up in relation to the offensive lineman. Each position is referred to as a "5-technique" or a "3-tech," etc.
O-Technique- Often referred to as the nose tackle, this is always the biggest dude on defense. He lines up directly over the center, and is expected to defend both of the A-gaps, and often draw a double team from one of the guards. This is primarily used in a base 3-4 defense, and has mostly been phased out recently due to so many offenses running spread. Terrance Cody was the most famous one here at Bama, and Brandon Ivory has manned it this year.
1-Technique- This is known as the tilted nose, and is the 4-3 version of a nose tackle. He lines up over one shoulder of the center, and attacks only the A-gap on his side. He is expected to command a double team of the center and the guard, and disrupt running plays in the backfield. After playing outside most of last year, A'Shawn Robinson has primarily played here (though he moves all over the line).
3-Technique- Typically one of the most sought after styles of lineman, the 3-tech is considered the pass rushing tackle in a 4-3 alignment. He attacks the B-Gap between the guard and is typically a little quicker and lighter than the 1-tech (though a recent NFL trend has been to play the really tall tackles here). Ndamakung Suh is one of the best at this position in the NFL. Jarran Reed frequents this position on base 4-3 defensive downs, and Jonathan Allen and D.J. Pettway both rotate in on passing situations
5-Technique- The 5-tech is considered the defensive end in a base 3-4. He lines up directly against the offensive tackle and has a two-gap responsibility for the B and C gaps. His job is about the same as that of the 0-tech, but he needs to be a little faster and have better range around the edges that the nose tackle. Most of the time, it is a fairly inglorious position, as two-gapping clogs lanes so the linebackers can get all the tackles, but J.J. Watt for the Texans has single-handedly proven that a 5-tech can also make a disruptive impact. A'Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed move to the left and right 5-techs as Ivory takes the 0-tech in a base 3-4.
7-Technique- The standard 4-3 defensive end lines up in the C gap, and is expected to set the edge in the run game, fight through a double team with the tight end, and also still be able to rush the passer. D.J. Pettway and Jonathan Allen both play here quite often in base packages. Xzavier Dickson and Ryan Anderson will also sometimes line up here in pass-defense packages
9-Technique- The 9-tech is the most over-glorified defensive line position. He lines up outside the tight end, and pins his ears back and rush the quarterback. These speed rushers get all the hype in the NFL draft (and more often than not, don't live up to it.) Nick Saban often doesn't even use a 9-technique, and instead lines his Jack linebackers more at the 7-tech spot. Rashaan Evans and Tim Williams are both good prototypes for a 9-tech.
With all of that out of the way, lets get to looking at the new kids on the block
The Next Men Up
|Last Name||First Name||Position||State||Stars||National Rank||Position Rank||Height||Weight||40-Yard Dash||20-Yard Shuttle||Vertical Jump||Power Throw||SPARQ||Z-Score|
After having SPARQ freaks like DaShawn Hand, Josh Frazier, and A'Shawn Robinson for me to drool over the last few years, none of the three in this class participated in Nike's SPARQ program, so I will have to leave out that bit of data in my evaluations today
As is the case with most standout high school player, Jennings plays a multitude of positions, ranging from defensive tackle to wide receiver. He spends most of his time, however, as a pass rusher, both as a 9-technique with his hand in the dirt, and as a stand up linebacker. As he rushes from the outside, he has a signature side step that he uses to get the offensive tackle to stop his feet, and then Jennings will blow past the the tangled up behemoth. Jennings' lateral agility is his best trait, and he displays an ability to keep running backs from getting around him to the sideline. He is also a powerful tackler.
Jennings has over 30 minutes of video, and I don't expect anyone to spend as much time watching it as I did, but I couldn't decide on just one play to gif, so I embedded the entire video.
At only 240 pounds, Jennings needs to add some bulk to his frame to have the strength to move to the line at the next level. He also needs a lot of work on his hand technique as a rusher, and add more moves to his arsenal.
Overall, he has a solid blend of size and speed, and has the versatility to play at many different positions, depending on what weight he chooses to play at. I think, however, that he will be best suited to bulk up to about 260-270 pounds, and play a 7-technique, where he can use his lateral quickness on the edge to contain the outside run, and also still be able to rush the passer on the outside. He actually reminds me a lot of Jonathan Allen when he was coming out of high school, and I think Jennings would be smart to try and follow in Allen's footsteps
Bell seems to be a pretty shy guy. At the very least, he doesn't make himself very public. Finding any video on him is a challenge in and of itself. From what I have seen though, Bell is mostly a one trick pony. He plays as a speed rusher on the outside, and just goes all out after the quarterback. He is a bit small, at only 220 pounds. Too small to even play as an outside linebacker for Saban. Remember Jarvis Jones from Georgia a couple of years back? I think Bell seems to be a very similar type of player to him
I apologize for my lack of wordiness, but finding anything about Bell turned out to be a fruitless endeavor for me.
Moton is probably my favorite of the three. T.D. Moton is a large man. Surprisingly, he is also a very quick and energetic man. He has an uncanny ability to time the snap, and is almost always the first defensive lineman across the line of scrimmage. As I mentioned in my article about linebackers, one thing I look for in a lineman is how active his hands are. Moton slaps, clubs, and swats away in the trenches.
He is a big guy, and as such, is not all that fast or agile. He is also not as strong as one would expect, and is adequate, but not great at playing in a two-gap role.
Physically and athletically, Moton may be more limited than many top recruits that come to Alabama, but his energy and drive really stand out. He has a motor that never quits running, and is a player that could wear down an entire offensive line over the course of a game. I think he would be best suited as 1-technique tackle, and will be a situational pass rusher early in his career.
The End to the Series
And with that, I have given a brief scouting report of every one of Alabama's current commitments for next year. National Signing day is only a couple of months away, and obviously things can change between now and then. There are quite a few top recruits such as Damien Harris and Adonis Thomas who each seem to be seriously considering the Tide. The elite pass rusher, CeCe Jefferson, is set to make his decision on National Signing Day, and Alabama is in his list of top choices. In the mean time, I will keep all of you guys updated on any new situations regarding the recruiting trail.
Now, how about we go win three more games?
Roll Tide guys.