Levi Wallace has been a surprise this season, proving to be the lockdown corner Alabama needed to replace Marlon Humphrey. He came off the bench against Florida State, claimed the starting role, and hasn’t relinquished it.
We’ve repeatedly seen how good he is in coverage, and that’s been reflected with several outlets naming Wallace to midseason All-American teams (here and here, for instance); and he is a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the top defensive back.
Against Tennessee, however, we saw a different side of Wallace. He racked up 6 tackles, which is a career high for him (career high was 5 against Colorado State). His 3 tackles for a loss are also a career high (he came in with 1.5 TFL), and he notched his first and second career sacks along with a quarterback hurry. Those two sacks led the team against the Volunteers.
Wallace did allow one catch from what I saw, a 9 yard completion on a scramble from the quarterback. What a scrub, right?
3rd and 4: Wallace (#39) is in man coverage at the top of the screen. The receiver tries to release outside, and Wallace steps with him. He quickly turns his hips and starts running downfield while keeping an arm on the receiver. Wallace is smothering him, and QB Jarrett Guarantano sails the pass out of bounds.
2nd and 11: Wallace is a few yards off the line of scrimmage at the top. He trains his eyes on Guarantano and keeps his focus there on the snap. Wallace lets the wide receiver run by him while he’s watching the H-back flare out into the flat and Guarantano rolls to his right. He sees the quarterback begin to throw, and he jumps into action. Wallace shoots forwards, showing off his short area speed; and the H-back barely has time to even catch it and turn before Levi is already there. It’s an excellent all-around play for Wallace.
2nd and 7: Wallace is in press coverage at the bottom here. He turns and runs with WR Marquez Callaway, staying tight on him and slowing him down somewhat. Guarantano does go to Callaway, who has gained a step on Wallace. His coverage, plus Hootie Jones coming over the top, was good enough, though, to require a perfect throw to fit the pass into a small window. To Guarantano’s credit, it was almost completed.
3rd and 7: It’s the very next play. Wallace is on Callaway at the bottom again. Alabama has two potential rushers on the right side of their line and four on the left, and only three of those end up rushing. With their focus on the defenders near the line, the Vols aren’t prepared at all when Wallace comes on a blitz. In addition, Da’Ron Payne (#94) stunts inside, drawing the right guard and center’s attention that way while Anfernee Jennings (#33) rushes on the outside shoulder of the right tackle; this opens a wide lane for Wallace. Guarantano looks left initially and doesn’t see the blur that is Wallace until the last second. The former walk-on gets an easy sack.
2nd and 8: Wallace is in press coverage at the bottom of the screen. Tennessee is in the pistol with an H-back on both sides of the line. They run a playaction with one H-back going out on a route and the other blocking down on James Mosley. Wallace is blitzing again, and there is no one who can stop him. It’s the perfect play call. By the time Guarantano has completed his drop, Wallace is already four yards deep and only about four yards away from the quarterback. Again, Guarantano doesn’t see him until the last minute. He tries to step up and avoid the sack, but Wallace grabs him by the waist and drags him down for his second sack of the day and his career.
3rd and 8: Bama loads the right side of the line, the opposite side Wallace is on, with four defenders; and there are only two shaded to Wallace’s side. This should look similar. Payne rushes inside (similar again) while Mosley (#16) goes outside. The running back stays in and helps the right tackle with Mosley, and the right guard goes inside with Payne. Wallace has another huge lane to blitz through. Guarantano gets the pass off - it’s deflected - but he takes a huge hit from Wallace.