FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. — Defense has been the cornerstone of Alabama’s dynasty in college football under Nick Saban.
Players such as Terrence Cody, Rolando McClain, Mark Barron, Landon Collins, Reggie Ragland and Minkah Fitzpatrick have made the Crimson Tide’s defense the stingiest in the SEC over the last decade-plus.
This year, though, with the way Saban has revamped the offense — with the help of Heisman Trophy runner-up Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback — the defense has become almost an afterthought going into Saturday’s Orange Bowl against Oklahoma (7 p.m., ESPN).
But Alabama’s defense still has plenty of teeth — a unanimous All-American at defensive tackle in Quinnen Williams, a consensus All-American at safety in Deionte Thompson, an overall unit that had two shutouts and two more games where the opponent scored just a single touchdown.
“They haven’t been very vulnerable. Every game you turn on is about 50-10,” Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said before running down each level of the Crimson Tide’s defense. “They’re strong up front as they’ve traditionally been. The D-tackle, 92 (Williams), he’s phenomenal — an elite player who’s had an elite year. As good as we’ve played without a doubt.”
He went on to praise Alabama’s linebackers as being experienced and able to make plays all over the field, and the secondary as being a young group full of size and skill.
Receiver CeeDee Lamb said the secondary popped out to him on film as the Sooners have prepared.
“They’re more aggressive and they trust each other’s going to get the job done, which is a sign of a good DB corps,” Lamb said. “They’re going to be up to the task. They trust each other and hope everyone can win one-on-one battles.”