Only once in the last five years has Alabama had a defender finish solo atop the SEC in interceptions (Minkah Fitzpatrick, 2016). Yet, UA has been one of the top intercepting teams in the nation over the last five years.
Friday marks 85 days away from UA’s season opener against USC (if played as currently scheduled), 85 being the same number of interceptions UA has over the past five seasons. Only San Diego State (91) and Appalachian State (87) have more.
One factor in UA’s recent intercepting prowess is that it has been consistent from year to year. San Diego State is lifted to the No. 1 spot by the 23 and 26 interceptions in 2015 and 2016, respectively, counteracting 10 interceptions in 2018. Iowa, No. 5 with 81, has a similar story with 21 and 20 interceptions in 2017 and 2018 washing away an underwhelming nine in 2016; Clemson is tied with Iowa with 81 and follows a similar path, with 12 interceptions in 2018 outdone by 19 last season and 20 in 2016.
Alabama has been consistent: 17 last season, 14 in 2018, 19 in 2017, 16 in 2016 and 19 in 2015. Just UA’s last three seasons, with 50 interceptions, are more than 35 schools have had in the entire five-year stretch; that list of schools with 35 or fewer interceptions includes schools with typically respectable defenses such as Notre Dame, Navy, Army and Iowa State.
UA’s interceptions have also been impressive on a rate basis. Alabama’s 85 interceptions over the last five seasons have come against 2,303 passes faced, meaning UA intercepted 3.69 percent of its opponents passes in that span. That percentage ranks eighth nationally; San Diego State and Appalachian State are once again first and second, respectively.
If UA is to continue its streak of intercepting passes at one of the nation’s best paces, it will likely have to find trustworthy answers at safety. Only twice in the last five seasons has a UA player intercepted six or more passes in a season, and both were safeties: Eddie Jackson in 2015 and the aforementioned Fitzpatrick 2016 season.
Last year’s team was led in interceptions by a departed safety, Jared Mayden, and Xavier McKinney is also gone from UA’s safety position. Sophomore Jordan Battle is expected to slide into a starting position after playing some in Dime packages in 2019, but he will need help from another safety if UA is to continue picking off passes at this rate.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or email@example.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson