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When Fully Healthy, Alabama's Defense Can Finally Show What It's Made of

Marc Torrence@marctorrenceAlabama Lead WriterSeptember 26, 2014

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 20:  Landon Collins #26 of the Alabama Crimson Tide breaks up this pass intended for Valdez Showers #10 of the Florida Gators at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 20, 2014 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama’s defense hasn’t been terrible by any means. Statistically, it sits at No. 5 in the country in yards per game.

But it hasn’t exactly faced a murderers' row of offenses, and has given up more big plays than it would like.

Part of this could be drawn up to injuries. The Crimson Tide have been without several key contributors at some point or another throughout fall camp and into the season.

But coming out of a bye week and ready to sink its teeth into the meat of its SEC schedule, Alabama looks to be pretty much healthy on that side of the ball.

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 30:  Devonte Mathis #82 of the West Virginia Mountaineers pulls in this reception against Cyrus Jones #5 of the Alabama Crimson Tide at Georgia Dome on August 30, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
Martin Rose/Getty Images

After scrutiny over its performance so far this season, the Alabama defense can finally show the country what its made of, and we’ll see whether this is a unit that can complement its championship-caliber offense.

While Alabama is giving up just 250.3 yards per game, that number is inflated because of the strength of teams the Crimson Tide have played so far, especially as it pertains to the run game.

Alabama has been most susceptible through the air, where it sits at No. 28 nationally. Most of those yards came against West Virginia, which put up 365 yards. Southern Miss even managed to hit pass plays of 24, 36, 27 and 25 yards.

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Florida threw for just 93 yards, but Jeff Driskel is one of the worst quarterbacks in the SEC.

Part of that can be chalked up to injuries and inconsistencies in personnel. Alabama has been without several key starters for some stretch of time, but now it looks like the Crimson Tide will have their full cast at their disposal coming up.

Alabama 2014 defensive injuries
NamePositionInjuryTime missed
Trey DePriestLinebackerKneePart of fall camp, West Virginia game for NCAA infraction
Eddie JacksonCornerbackKnee, quadWest Virginia, Florida games
Jarrick WilliamsSafetyFootFlorida Atlantic, Southern Miss, Florida
Geno SmithSafetyKneePart of fall camp
A'Shawn RobinsonDefensive linemanKneePart of fall camp
Nick Saban

Cornerback Eddie Jackson and safety Jarrick Williams have been two critical losses in the secondary. Jackson is one of Alabama’s most physical cornerbacks and has matched up with top receivers in the conference. Williams plays in nickel and dime and plays well against the run.

Alabama coach Nick Saban said on Tuesday that both of them should be good to go.

The Crimson Tide also missed Trey DePriest, the team’s most experienced inside linebacker, for the season opener from an NCAA infraction and for most of fall camp with a knee injury. His return as the signal-caller has improved the team’s communication.

Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

“Since we got Trey back, he's been leading everybody on the defense,” junior linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “Everybody has responded real great. Coach Saban called us out and we definitely had to respond to that. Everybody has come out, known their assignments and played real tough football.”

Indeed, Saban called Alabama’s defense “soft” at halftime of the West Virginia game. The Mountaineers moved the ball fairly consistently during the game, especially through the air, and hung around longer than most fans, coaches and players would have liked.

Getting DePriest back helped curb some of that.

“When you're a football player, you're known to be tough, smashmouth, especially coming here,” Ragland said. “When your coach calls you out, you definitely have to respond to it.”

By all accounts, Alabama is getting its defenders back at just the right time.

The Crimson Tide will face Ole Miss and Texas A&M, the league’s two best passing teams, in the next three games.

Whether or not Alabama is up to the challenge, we’ll find out soon.

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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