October 5, 2006

Defensive Notebook: All about the Tide

Scout teams, film sessions and hours of studying are regular parts of each week for a Crimson Tide player or coach trying to get a leg up on the competition. While the Tide is still going through those motions this week against the 0-4 Duke Blue Devils, the focus this week is a bit less on the competition and a bit more on self-improvement.

"It's more about Alabama this week," said Rashad Johnson. "We have watched some tape but this week is about working on our own team and trying to get better."

"Our focus this week is to find a way to get back on track," said head coach Mike Shula. "We had good work Sunday night. The kids, I think, have a great attitude. We've suffered two tough losses, losses in which we felt like we could have won the game. I think there are a lot of points that you can talk to your team about, as far as where we are and where we could be, and how we've got to get back on track. "

One of those points, and the key one for Shula and the Tide this week, is to refuse to let two straight SEC losses discourage the team from continuing to work hard.

"The main thing for all of us to do is be positive and learn how we can all get better. Really put the emphasis, as we do every week but, especially this week, doing everything right and come in here and prepare harder than we've ever prepared. Each guy starts with himself on how he can help this team get better."

Scouting the Blue Devils

For defensive coordinator Joe Kines, 2006 has been a clinic in new school defense as the Tide have been forced to defend a slew of non-traditional offensive schemes. This week, the Kines will feel a bit more at home against an old-school Duke offense.

"Duke's a little more conservative on offense, formation-wise, than we've played in the last five weeks," Kines said. "They run the I-formation, they run the slot and run a little bit of one-back stuff. It's a bit more conventional than we've seen."

"The best thing they do is throw the boots and waggles, they do a real nice job of that. The play action, misdirection and moving the pocket outside. They've given teams some problems by blocking two people on the edge and getting their quarterback out on the run."

Kines believes that key injuries may have played a part in Duke's struggles the first four weeks of the season, something that may no longer be a problem once the Blue Devils arrive in Tuscaloosa.

"One of the worst things that could have happened to them was one of their better players (Ronnie Drummer) was hurt early. A tailback/wide receiver combination guy with speed and a chance to get on the corner was hurt in the first game. He came back and played some last week so he will probably be back to full speed this week."
Five weeks in, the Tide defense has not had much of a chance to run the kind of defense they'll run against Duke, playing mostly out of their 3-3-5 package that has made them one of the more interesting defenses in the SEC.

"We've run that 3-3-5 package the last four years and we usually run it against empty spread formation teams. It turns out we've seen a lot of that the first several games this year so we've run it out of necessity. Our stats have been good in that formation and our kids really love to play it so it's become a good part of our defense."

"You can rush six different people off of it so you can end up with a four man front without looking like it."

Tide proud of goal line stand against Gators

Rashad Johnson and his teammates knew they were in for a tough day against the Florida Gators last weekend and had no illusions about the superior talent they would be defending at wide out.

"They were good receivers but it wasn't anything we weren't ready for," Johnson. "We knew they were going to be talented and have good feet and catch the ball well."

Though Johnson and company weren't able to contain the Gator wide outs as well as they had hoped, they were able to make one defensive stand that gave them an enormous sense of pride as they left the field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, despite the final score.

"Right before we went out, the coaches told us they were going to try and score on us again," Johnson said. "They told us to go out there and play with heart. That's exactly what we did. We were not going to let them get in the end zone. I think it was important because it shows we have a lot of heart and a lot of pride. We could have gone out and lay down and let them score but we decided we weren't going to let them in."

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