Alabama head coach Nick Saban said Tuesday that college football defenses have no choice but to continue adapting to fast-paced, pass-heavy offenses.
"The dinosaurs didn't adapt. The dinosaurs are no longer here. Adapt or die," Saban said at the Texas High School Coaches Association convention, per Sam Khan Jr. of The Athletic.
The SEC, which was traditionally dominated by elite defenses and powerful rushing attacks, hasn't been immune from the changing landscape of offense across all levels of football. Spread offenses and run-pass option plays have exploded in popularity thanks to the mismatches they can create.
Alabama has followed suit. The Crimson Tide threw for 2,919 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2007, Saban's first year in charge, and those numbers were up to 4,656 yards and 42 scores through the air in 2020.
The days of "three yards and a cloud of dust" are fading away, and it's forced defensive-minded coaches like Saban to find ways of at least slowing down those high-powered passing games.
In June, Saban explained on 680 The Fan Radio in Atlanta (via Nick Kelly of the Tuscaloosa News) that he enjoys the challenge of scheming against modern offenses because he'd be "bored" if everything was still an I-formation, run-based attack:
"It's challenging as a defensive guy to be able to adapt and adjust to the way the game is played now, but I think the rules in college football have sort of ignited the change throughout the game. Blocking three and a half yards down field on a pass play which leads to RPOs is a dramatic change in the way you play football. You need to be spread out to do that. To be able to block down field on a pass behind the line of scrimmage, which is just a rule that applies in college football, changes the game in terms of how you throw screens and how you pick people and run people in the flat. Those are real challenging things to try and defend. They all create tremendous run, pass conflicts for defensive players."
The changes haven't stopped Saban from building a perennial championship contender in Tuscaloosa. Bama posted a 13-0 record last year to win its sixth title of the Saban era.
Alabama is once again a top contender heading into the 2021 season. The Tide will kick off the campaign Sept. 4 against Miami in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.