Nick Saban's secondary has room to grow before the showdown against LSU on Nov. 9.
While this season has proven to look and feel different from years past in the SEC, one thing that hasn’t changed is that all eyes will be watching when Alabama and LSU tangle on Nov. 9.
LSU will present Nick Saban’s defense with a stiff test, particularly with its prolific offense (yep, sounds weird to me too) led by quarterback Zach Mettenberger and receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr.
It was the same trio that enjoyed a strong performance against the Tide last season before ultimately falling 21-17. However, the Tide have three games in between to work out their kinks in the secondary.
What improvements does Alabama’s secondary have to make before the showdown against LSU?
Alabama has already faced two teams who posed significant challenges with deep receiver groups—Texas A&M and Ole Miss.
The Aggies carved up the Tide’s secondary, but Saban’s troops rebounded with a strong effort against the Rebels.
Perhaps the biggest difference in those two games was how physical the Tide’s defensive backs played against Ole Miss. With three games left until the meeting with LSU, Alabama’s secondary has to continue to show that it can play physical at the line of scrimmage, and be aggressive when the ball is in the air.
One of the biggest revelations for Alabama this season has been the strong play of true freshman corner Eddie Jackson.
As Andrew Gribble of AL.com notes, Jackson’s strong showing against Ole Miss got the attention of his teammates and coaches.
If Jackson can continue to improve and become a reliable option opposite Deion Belue, Alabama’s secondary has a better chance to be effective against the stronger offenses the Tide will face later in the season.
Two of the most versatile defenders on Alabama’s roster are safeties Landon Collins and Vinnie Sunseri. Both are equally adept at making plays in the box and in coverage.
Their presence gives Saban and defensive Kirby Smart a number of options that can help the defense disguise its coverages.
Expanding on the versatility of both players is likely to come in handy—as it has in the wake of the indefinite suspension of starting safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
One of the staples of Alabama’s defense under Saban has been its strength in fundamentally sound football—specifically, its ability to limit big plays by tackling well.
Like most areas of the defense, the Tide struggled in that department against the Aggies.
Leading up to the LSU game, Alabama’s defensive backs have to continue to improve their tackling in open space.
Considering that none of the opponents preceding the date against the Tigers have established receiver groups that are comparable, the Tide’s secondary has a lot of room to grow and improve before the Nov. 9 clash between SEC West titans.