SEC Football Q&A: Will Alabama's Defense Play Better Against Spread Offenses?

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJune 27, 2014

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached single digits.

Only nine weeks remain before the first college football weekend of 2014. But before toe meets leather, there's still plenty of time to discuss what could happen in the first season under the College Football Playoff system.

As is the case every Friday, it's time for a little SEC Q&A to hold you over in the offseason.


@BarrettSallee With the coaching changes and another year to study it, do you think Bama will have better luck against the spread in 2014?

— cfb_poindexter (@cfb_poindexter) June 27, 2014

Yes, without a doubt.

That will largely be because of defensive ends who are extremely athletic and can chase down running quarterbacks. In Alabama's 3-4 scheme, oftentimes defensive ends take up blocks and let those athletic linebackers clean up.

Guys like A'Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen can do that, but they're also athletic enough to get off those blocks and go track down the quarterback. Allen had a solid game against Auburn last year with three tackles and a half sack, and he showed off his athleticism in tracking down Tre Mason from behind downfield in the second quarter (2:24 mark).

Plus, there are guys up front who are versatile. Robinson has All-SEC written all over him, Jarran Reed is a bigger defensive end but can move, and junior college transfer D.J. Pettway is light on his feet.

On top of that, Alabama has made a point to recruit smaller, more fast-twitch outside linebackers like Rashaan Evans. He'll likely play behind Denzel Devall, who's also quick and able to get off and around blocks. The staff recognizes that there's a slight issue and is working to fix it.

The big question is, can they be consistent against spread offenses? Up to seven of Alabama's eight SEC opponents in 2014 could start a mobile quarterback and employ some variation of the spread offense. They have the personnel to do it, and I think they'll have success against spread teams in 2014.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban (left) and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart
Alabama head coach Nick Saban (left) and defensive coordinator Kirby SmartDave Martin/Associated Press


@BarrettSallee Which game that nobody is talking about should put a big boy on upset alert? #VeryRandomQuestion Lol

— Stuart Davis (@stu623) June 27, 2014

Auburn better be careful on Oct. 11 at Mississippi State. Very, very careful.

That game comes after Auburn hosts LSU in Jordan-Hare Stadium, and that game usually leaves both teams worn out. The very next week, the Tigers have to go play a Mississippi State team that's either beaten them or played them close every year since 2010.

Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott
Mississippi State QB Dak PrescottMark Humphrey/Associated Press

Plus, this will be a veteran Bulldog defense with a small village of returning contributors who slowed Auburn last year (granted, before Auburn's offense took off) to just 120 rushing yards in a 24-20 last-minute win for the Tigers.

With all of the experience coming back on defense, a full offseason of work in the offense for quarterback Dak Prescott and head coach Dan Mullen's ability to design an offense around a quarterback who can be a bruiser between the tackles and efficient in the passing game, Mississippi State can be competitive against the SEC West's big boys.

Can the Bulldogs spring an upset? Auburn better watch out.


@BarrettSallee may have already answered it but sec assistants or any assistants likely to get a SEC job if one is open next yr.

— Brandon (@bc4_bc) June 27, 2014

Unless a coach leaves on his own, I don't think there will be any jobs open in the SEC this offseason. So clearly, I think Florida is going to be competitive this year and head coach Will Muschamp will keep his job. If I'm wrong and Florida makes a change, the Gators could stay in the SEC and hire a coordinator.

Auburn OC Rhett Lashlee
Auburn OC Rhett LashleeJae C. Hong/Associated Press

It'd be easy to say that Florida would go with the hottest coordinator on the block and hire Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. But once upon a time, Muschamp was a hotshot defensive coordinator waiting for "the big one," so I doubt the Gators would go in that direction.

Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee would be a much more appropriate choice for the Gators if they make a change.

He has learned under current Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn, is flexible enough to call games that play to the strength of his quarterbacks and won't put a square peg in a round hole like former Gator coordinator Brent Pease did with quarterback Jeff Driskel.

But with that said, unless a coach chooses to leave on his own, I don't see any openings in the SEC after this season.

Auburn OC Rhett Lashlee
Auburn OC Rhett LashleeTodd J. Van Emst/Associated Press


Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC Lead Writer Barrett Sallee on Twitter at @BarrettSallee. If your question wasn't answered this week, it has been saved and could be used in the future.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings are courtesy of, and all stats are courtesy of