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Alabama film study: Evaluating new Crimson Tide coordinators during inactive week


One of Alabama’s biggest question marks heading into this season is still taking shape and now must be evaluated during the bye week. The program replaced offensive and defensive coordinators for the fifth time in Nick Saban’s tenure, with hires on opposite ends of the spectrum: 30-plus year veteran Kevin Steele (defense) and 31-year-old Tommy Rees (offense). . ).

The team is 7-1 overall, 5-0 in the SEC and right into the College Football Playoff debate. Through eight weeks, from a statistical standpoint, here’s how Alabama compares from 2022 to 2023:

Alabama offense

2022 2023

Total offense

477.2 ypg (11th)

366.6 ypg (81st)

Yards per play

6.9 ypp (8th)

5.9 ypp (58th)

Rating

41.1 points per game (T-4th)

30.6 points per game (49th)

Who passed

281.5 ypg (19th)

219.5 points per game (79th)

Yards per attempt

8.4 years (18th)

9.6 years (7th grade)

Rushing

195.0 ypg (30th)

147.1 YPG (78th)

Rush by transport

5.6 cpc (4th)

3.7 cpc (98th)

3rd try

45.7% (23rd)

43.4% (T-39th)

Alabama Defense

2022 2023

Total defense

318.2 ypg (13th)

306.4 ypg (15th)

Yards per play

4.6 ypp (4th)

4.6 ypp (13th)

Rating

18.2 points per game (T-9th)

16.5 points per game (15th)

Who passed

187.8 points per game (17th)

197.6 ypg (30th)

Yards per attempt

5.6 years (3rd)

6.2 ypa (T-19e)

Rushing

130.4 points per game (35th)

108.8 points per game (23rd)

Rush by transport

3.6 cpc (30th)

3.1 ypc (19th)

3rd try

30.3% (10th)

34.5% (37th)

Offense

The obvious difference, and the No. 1 question regarding Alabama entering 2023, was how Bryce Young would be replaced. Alabama’s offense is now settled with Jalen Milroe, and there’s clearly a different identity through eight weeks.

Under former coordinator Bill O’Brien, the offense dropped back to passing nearly 57 percent of the time. Last season’s rushing attack with Jahmyr Gibbs averaged 195 yards per game, although Gibbs ranked 83rd nationally with 151 carries. Naturally, with this passing spread and Alabama’s reputation for superior wide receiver play, the offense consisted of 11 personnel (a running back, a tight end and three wide receivers) over 70 percent. time in 2021 and 2022 combined.

Alabama’s offense this year is the opposite, dropping back to pass 48 percent of the time and, when you factor in dropbacks turning into rushes, running the ball 57 percent of the time. Schematically, the biggest change is Rees’ use of 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers). Alabama has two tight ends on the field 43 percent of the time, compared to just 9 percent last season. Tight ends CJ Dippre, Amari Niblack and Robbie Ouzts each see around 30 to 35 plays per game while only two receivers – Jermaine Burton and Isaiah Bond – have played more than 50 percent of the total offensive snaps. Fewer receivers are playing consistent snaps, but Alabama has reduced last season’s drop problem — drops fell to 5.1 percent, less than the national average and less than half of the 10.8 percent from last season.

In the passing game, the plan of attack of the respective QB/coordinator duos is also different. A staple of O’Brien’s offense with Young was the run-pass option: 62% of Young’s throws in 2022 traveled less than 10 yards through the air (or were behind the line of scrimmage). Pieces like these were a mainstay:

Conversely, Milroe’s attempts in this range are nearly 8 percent lower — almost 45 percent of his passes travel more than 11 yards in the air. Rees has been displaying short, timed and RPO routes recently, with one of the notable plays of the Tennessee game being the short crossover to Bond that set up the first touchdown. But longer-term achievements have been Milroe’s strength. In eight weeks, he completed 58 percent of passes traveling more than 21 yards through the air; 12 of his 13 touchdown passes went for more than 10 yards.

Another element that might not be as visible is the usage of the running back in the passing game. Gibbs was an excellent pass catcher and led the team in receptions last season, and Jase McClellan is a proven commodity with six touchdown receptions in 2021-22. However, this year, Alabama running backs have 96 receiving yards and no touchdowns.

Like last season, Alabama employs primarily two running backs, with this year’s duo of McClellan and Roydell Williams handling most of the workload.

Another similar – and equally disappointing – area this season is the offensive line. This year’s group allowed pressure on 37.3 percent of dropbacks, which ranks 112th nationally; last year: 32.6 percent, 72nd nationally. Both O’Brien and Rees favor running inside the zone between the tackles, but the Tide executed it with varying degrees of success. Last season, Alabama averaged 5.6 yards per carry in this zone; this year, he’s down to 4.6 yards per carry.

One constant is running behind JC Latham at right tackle, with runs alongside him in 2022 and 2023 averaging over seven yards per carry. This Williams run against Tennessee, where Latham (with help from Jaeden Roberts) sealed his team, illustrates why:

Good Roydell Williams run

It has been an adjustment for Rees with his new staff, but there have been signs of optimism in recent weeks. He does well with intriguing players open on big plays, with Bond and Kobe Prentice being the beneficiaries in recent weeks. He also showed creative looks with some players, for example Kendrick Law.

Law, standing 5-foot-11 and 201 pounds, is known for his aggressive style of play. In the first game of the season, Rees used Law in a two-tight end look where he posed as a third tight end to initiate a free run for a good gain. This game has RPO potential in a different aspect:

Kendrick Law TE

Law has been healthier lately and logged 22 offensive snaps last week. Rees used it again for a good gain, this time in a sweep pass/jet pop to bring down his physical frame:

Kendrick Law sweep

It will be interesting to see what Rees’ offense looks like after the bye, but using the last few weeks as a benchmark, I expect a bit more variance.

Defense

Steele’s adjustment was much less drastic during his third stint on the Alabama team. During preseason camp, Steele estimated that about 80 percent of the verbiage was the same when he returned, and the changes in his defense compared to Pete Golding’s are less about the scheme and more about the style of play.

The defense’s biggest questions heading into 2023 centered more on fundamentals: Could this defense improve its tackling, reduce penalties and limit the miscommunications that led to explosive plays? In eight weeks, these questions were answered definitively yes.

According to Pro Football Focus, Alabama’s 2022 defense missed 108 tackles, the first season of over 100 missed tackles for the Tide in the PFF era (since 2014). This year’s group improved, with the defense allowing 2.4 rushing yards after contact, which ranks 15th nationally, up from 31st in 2022.

Credit Steele and new coach Robert Bala for their work with the inside linebackers this season. The trio of Deontae Lawson, Trezmen Marshall and Jihaad Campbell fill their gaps with much more consistency, and when there is an opening, they rarely take a half step. This group plays with speed and aggression.

Good Deontae Lawson tackle

Below is an example of the high school’s commitment to better communication: On a third-and-17 in the third quarter against Tennessee, Kool-Aid McKinstry notices something is wrong and goes above and beyond to get the right call to Malachi Moore, one of the team’s best communicators. McKinstry takes the message to Moore and the media coverage is solid. Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton has nowhere to go and throws the ball into the flat, where the receiver is tackled before the first down.

Good communication

Schematically, there was a striking contrast between Steele and Golding: the nickel versus the dime. Under Golding, Alabama’s defense lined up in the dime package (six defensive backs) nearly 30 percent of the time on average from 2019 to 2022. Through eight weeks this season, Alabama s He’s lined up in a dime cover only 60 times, or 11 percent of the time.

The overwhelming majority of snaps (86%) are nickel (five defensive backs), which is the de facto base defense you see snap-to-snap. This defense isn’t as deep as years past, but the front-line starters are at an elite level. Steele calls blitzes at a slightly higher rate in 2023 (24%) than in 2022 (22%), and Alabama’s sack rate (9.9%) is the second highest since 2019, largely thanks to the emergence of Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell. one of, if not the best, passing duos in college football.

But Steele’s greatest contribution is his ability to adapt. Alabama had one of the best second-half defenses in the country, allowing just seven points per second half, a nearly three-point improvement from 2022. The Tennessee game was the last example. Alabama held the Volunteers scoreless after a 20-point first half; last season, Hendon Hooker and the Vols scored 24 second-half points in their win over Alabama. There are some patterns involved in the halftime adjustments, but the players emphasize a change in mentality just as strongly.

“Our effort and our goal is to be a complete 60-minute team,” defensive lineman Justin Eboigbe said. “If you walk around the facility, you’ll see that ‘fourth quarter’ is our motto. It’s something we experience. We’re always trying to move up a gear. We feel like teams can’t compete with us for a full 60 minutes and games aren’t just won in the first half, first quarter, second quarter or third quarter. It’s won in a full 60 minutes, and that’s how we see it. We are able to make readjustments, not only at the team level, but only at the individual level.

When proper adjustments are accompanied by healthy communication and execution, good things happen on the defensive end. This was evident in the big touchdown against Tennessee last week. This stacked receiver look by the Volunteers had given Alabama problems since 2022. However, on this play, Alabama’s defensive back triangle of Trey Amos, Jaylen Key and Moore played it perfectly. Amos rushes his man and Moore, falling out of frame, makes a good break on the outside receiver with Key supporting inside. With nowhere to go, Milton holds the ball a little too long and Braswell comes from behind with the game-changing sack.

Strip sack TD

(Photo by Kendrick Law: John David Mercer / USA Today)


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