Alabama Defense Nearing All-Time Highs in Sacks
The Alabama front seven has become the driving force behind a defense that ranks fourth nationally in total defense and second against the run. In consecutive weeks, this huge, athletic group shut down Heisman favorite Leonard Fournette and suffocated one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, Dak Prescott.
That domination of Mississippi State last Saturday resulted in nine sacks, which pushed the season total up to 38. It was the third time in 10 games that Alabama recorded at least six sacks. Do you know how many times a Crimson Tide defense accomplished that in Nick Saban's previous seven seasons? Once.
This surge in quarterback pressure hasn't gone unnoticed, but are we giving it the credit it deserves? Let's take a look back and compare this group to some of the best at Alabama and the best that Saban has fielded as a college head coach.
Before beginning, we need to point out that the NCAA didn't actually start keeping official sack records until 2000. Up until that time, individual schools did it on their own, unofficially.
With that said, let's start by looking at Saban's history as a head coach. This 2015 team, which is only 10 games into its season, is already three sacks past Alabama's best team under Saban (35 sacks in 2012). Only 2003 LSU (44 sacks) and 1999 Michigan State (54 sacks) finished with better totals than this team. Should Alabama keeps its current pace of nearly four sacks per game, it would project to 53 or 54 sacks at the end of the season. That's assuming four games remain, which could increase or decrease.
This group also compares favorably to some of the best pass-rushing groups to ever wear crimson and white. Going back just 30 years to make the comparison is sufficient because offenses were so run-heavy prior to that. You won't find significant sack totals prior to the 1980s.
Here are the top five sack season in Alabama school history:
- 1988 - 60
- 1992 - 49
- 1987 - 45
- 2002 - 44
- 1995 - 42
This season would currently rank sixth all-time even without another game played, but every team on that list within reach except 1988. As you can probably guess, that was Derrick Thomas' record-breaking season of 27 individual sacks.
That benchmark will likely never be rivaled, but junior Jonathan Allen could crack the top five for an individual season at Alabama. After sacking Mississippi State three times, he brought his total to nine on the season.
Here are the top five individual sack seasons in Alabama school history:
- 27.0 - Derrick Thomas (1988)
- 18.0 - Derrick Thomas (1987)
- 11.0 - Emanuel King (1983)
- 10.5 - Eric Curry (1992)
- 10.5 - John Copeland (1992)
There's little doubt that we're witnessing one of the greatest defensive fronts to play at Alabama and quite possibly the best that Saban has put together in more than 17 years as college head coach.
Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports quoted a veteran NFL scout that said this:
I've never seen one team as loaded from seniors to freshmen as this team is. It's amazing. They're all huge and they all can move really well.
And that deep roster is reflected in the total number of players that have contributed to the sack total this year: 15.
Alabama will finish its regular season with Charleston Southern and Auburn, both of which runs it more effectively than it passes. That could slow down the sack numbers, but it'll still be a storyline to keep an eye on as the year comes to a close.
***Stats courtesy of CFBStats.com, RollTide.com, and LSUSports.net