Alabama football defense hoping to “click” as season grows near

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News
Alabama defensive lineman DJ Dale (94) recovers a South Carolina fumble at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C., on Saturday September 14, 2019.

With Alabama’s season opener against Missouri just over a week away, Crimson Tide defensive lineman DJ Dale says the Crimson Tide defense is finally approaching game-ready status after a prolonged period of practice — and he knows that the defense is going to be watched closely  

"We're getting into the rhythm,” Dale, a sophomore nose tackle, said on a Thursday Zoom call. “It kind of feels different, but next week everything will click and we'll lock in."

Dale, who missed the latter part of the 2019 season due to a lingering knee injury, may see extra duty against Missouri. Alabama head coach Nick Saban sounded less than optimistic about the chances of Christian Barmore (knee) being back for the game in Columbia, although Saban did not specifically rule Barmore out. 

Saban also expects the team to transition into game mode beginning Monday. 

“This is kind of hump week for the players in a lot of ways,” he said. “But I think we need to do everything better. I think we have to have a little better focus and intensity in practice. I think we need to not get sloppy in terms of the fundamental techniques that we’ve been working on for a long time so we can actually go to a game and play the way we need to play so that we can have success individually and collectively as a group and as units.”

Missouri has a new coach, Eli Drinkwitz, and an air of mystery, both at the quarterback position and in the roster shuffling that may be necessary due to coronavirus contact tracing. 

"Every team will do something different,” Dale said. “It's good to get a picture of that at practice."

The extra three weeks may have assisted Alabama in other ways. Some players coming back from injury like linebacker Dylan Moses have gotten extra time to rehabilitate and freshmen, many of whom will be relied upon heavily, have had a longer preparation period.

Two young players on the Crimson Tide defense who have attracted early praise are freshman defensive end Will Anderson and sophomore defensive back Jordan Battle. 

“(Anderson) is just a guy that came in and you can tell he's just got it,” Dale said. “He's a great player and he came in with it."

"Jordan (Branch) has done a really good job,” Saban said. “He’s played well. He had a really good last scrimmage (last Saturday). I think he had the most point production of anyone on defense. Caused a fumble, recovered a fumble, tackled well in the game, played physical, didn’t make a lot of mental errors. So he’s sort of playing with a lot of confidence right now.” 

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt.