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Data don’t lie.
Alabama’s defensive coordinator, Pete Golding, has been named as one of the finalists for this year’s Broyles Award given annually to the nation’s best assistant coach. Several Alabama coaches have taken home this award before, and all have gone on to become head coaches (Sark, Kiffin, Kirby). For Pete, it’s the second time in three seasons he’s made the cut as a finalist.
Will he win? No, of course not. My money is on TCU’s OC Garrett Riley. For Pete, the honor is a bit of a double-edged sword, as he is though of far more highly among the coaching fraternity than by rank-and-file Alabama fan.
But, as of this writing, he deserves that honor, frankly. I think it’s been clear that the majority of Alabama’s issues defensively have come from a simple lack of talent at some positions, key injuries at bad times (Ricks, Eboigbe), and whether we wanted to admit it or not, instability at corner opposite Kool Aid that has left the Tide vulnerable in some key situations as the roster was reshuffled to compensate for Eli Ricks’ injury. (And then of course good ole’ fashioned lack of turnover luck. Alabama has forced 10 fumbles, for instance, and has recoverd just three. They’ve dropped at least half a dozen INTs. That kind of stuff regresses to the mean year over year, but when it rains, it pours).
The numbers don’t lie either:
Alabama is second in the SEC in scoring defense (19 PPG)
Second in the conference in scoring defense vs. SEC teams (23 PPG)
It is third in the conference in rushing defense, and second in YPC
It is second in the conference in passer rating allowed and yards per throw.
It is first in the SEC in completion percentage allowed.
It is second in the SEC in TFL
Second in the SEC in sacks
First in the conference in Passes defended and Passes broken up
Second in the SEC in 3rd Down percentage allowed (30.6%).
Nationally, Alabama is:
4th overall in opponent-adjusted efficiency defense against the 5th toughest schedule in the country.
It is 2nd in preventing explosive drives;
16th in preventing explosive plays;
10th in forcing negative drives;
3rd in negative plays forced; 5th in rush efficiency defense;
7th in pass efficiency defense; and 4th in per-play defense
Most importantly, it has held 9 of 10 opponents it has played below their season average in yards and points. Not coincidentally, Alabama won 8 of those games (LSU was simply a despicable showing by the offense without any justification for it). There is a reason Alabama is four points away from being undefeated, even when the offense has taken entire quarters off and played half of the season with a winged, rattled quarterback.
Defense, in a word.
That’s not to say he’s perfect. No. He’s been challenged in tough games as opponents are zeroing in on the weak spots and talent deficits at key spots. And he’s even been outcoached in one of them. But the defense for the most part has lived up to their end of the bargain in 90% of their outings.
Are there better defenses out there? Sure. But not many. And, like it or not, this is simply what good defense looks like in 2022. So, go talk to the other coordinator — and some of those players in the locker room — if you want to know why Alabama is 8-2.