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Alabama Football vs. Texas Preview: When the Crimson Tide the ball

Steve Sarkisian has never exactly been known for his defense. Do his Longhorns have what it takes to slow down the reigning Heisman winner?

NCAA Football: Texas Spring Game Austin American-Statesman-USA TODAY NETWORK

Look, the Texas Longhorns went 5-7 in 2021 despite having a decent offense with an amazing running back. That means one unit was, to put it mildly, a bit of a disaster. They allowed 31 points per game (good for 99th in the FBS), allowed opponents to complete nearly 70% of their passes, and gave up 202 rushing yards per game at a 5.2 yards per carry clip.

The worst offender was the pass rush, as they managed only 17 total sacks, and no individual player got more than 2.

In any case, the Longhorns do return most everyone from that front 7. Which, you can take in one of two ways, I guess. Either it’s a good thing to keep continuity and keep developing in year 2 of a new system... Or it’s a bad thing that the starting front 5 that combined for 3 sacks in 2021 are all coming back. That’s not totally fair, as LB Barryn Sorrell (and he got two sacks in week 1 this year) wasn’t a starter, and DT T’Vondre Sweat was a rotational guy, but still. They all had a good bit of playing time without much production to show for it.

At linebacker, DeMarvion Overshown is the leader of the defense. He led the team with 74 tackles and added in 5.5 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. Overshown is more of a hybrid safety/linebacker type with a whole lot of speed an energy from the middle of the field and picked up 2 more tackles for loss in the season opener.

The secondary also returns most of their starters, but with an infusion of some talent with Ohio State transfer Ryan Watts.

Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski was the defensive coordinator for the Washington Huskies for a good chunk of the 2010s, and brought a base 3-4 style defense that uses a variety of bigger safeties and smaller linebackers in hybrid roles that can blitz from any direction at any time. Obviously, things didn’t go great in year 1, but his style and resume still bring a lot promise for the future.

Ultimately, the Texas defense has done very little prove they have much of a shot against Bryce Young and the Alabama offense. The key for them will be to blitz Young incessantly, hoping to get enough big plays to outweigh the big plays they also give up. Will it happen? Unlikely.

I wouldn’t expect less than 42 points for Alabama, and wouldn’t be surprised to see more than 50 from the Tide. Alabama should be able to lean on the run game against a defense that struggled against the run all last season, and that should remove the chances of negative sacks from the Texas defense trying to cross up the Alabama offensive line.

Roll Tide!