SEC defenses knocked on their heels, backpedaling in 2013 - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

SEC defenses knocked on their heels, backpedaling in 2013

Posted: Updated:
The powerful defenses in the Southeastern Conference are being knocked on their heels in 2013. (abc3340.com) The powerful defenses in the Southeastern Conference are being knocked on their heels in 2013. (abc3340.com)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The powerful defenses in the Southeastern Conference are being knocked on their heels.

The SEC has built its reputation on fast, talented defenses and rode that tradition to seven straight BCS national titles. This year, defenses are being shredded yard-by-yard.

Nine of 14 SEC teams are surrendering more yards than a year ago at this time. Among them are some of the conference's defensive leaders the past few seasons: Alabama, LSU and South Carolina.

Whatever the reason — spread offenses, an exodus of defensive talent to the NFL or attack-minded new coaches pushing the offensive tempo — it's apparent early on that SEC defenses are backpedaling.

Alabama coach Nick Saban said the defensive slide could simply be about talent.

"There's a lot of explosive players on offense," Saban said, "and maybe there's not as many dominant defensive players."

Saban's top-ranked and two-time defending champion Crimson Tide outlasted Texas A&M 49-42 two weeks ago in a shootout that was nothing like the, 9-6 overtime defensive slugfest against LSU in 2011.

Then again, it's hard to stop anybody when the league's best defenders have moved on.

Former Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones led the SEC with 14 ½ sacks, 24 ½ tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles a year ago and is now causing havoc for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, the 2012 league leader in passes defended, was among four Crimson Tide defensive starters selected in the NFL draft last spring.

LSU had seven defensive players off last year's team drafted. With just three starters back on defense, the yards and points the Tigers allow have nearly doubled from a year ago. LSU was giving up 149 yards and 10 points through four games in 2012; it is yielding 310 yards and 19.5 points this season.

Tigers coach Les Miles said it's not about a lack of talent, it's about experience.

"Our players are as talented as we've ever had and I think there's a maturity that needs to take place so they can play with their cleats headed north and south, and ready to make a tackle," Miles said.

But even veteran players are struggling to make an impact.

South Carolina All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, the reigning SEC defensive player of the year, was expected to dominate after notching 13 sacks a year ago and sending the helmet of Michigan runner Vincent Smith flying off in the Outback Bowl last New Year's Day.

The Gamecocks lost five senior linebackers off last year's team and Clowney's seen offenses run away from his side. The Gamecocks, 11th in the country defensively a year ago, have allowed 76 points, nearly three times the 29 they gave up through three games in 2012.

Clowney has 10 tackles and two sacks this year. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier even joked that Clowney better get in shape this week because it'll be a hot day in Orlando when No. 12 South Carolina faces UCF on Saturday.

Clowney picked things up in his last outing, forcing a second-half fumble in the Gamecocks 35-25 win over Vanderbilt.

"It's hard, man," said Chaz Sutton, the Gamecocks' other starting defensive end. SEC teams "have a lot of great guys at the skill positions that can fly and tear the top off a defense."

Things could get worse for SEC defenses.

The league's leading defensive unit in Florida — the Gators have permitted fewer than 15 points and 213 yards a game so far this year — could be without star lineman Dominique Easley, who injured his knee in practice and indicated on Twitter that he's out for the season.

And it doesn't look like SEC offenses will show down anytime soon.

Tennessee safety Brian Randolph, a sophomore, is among three underclassmen — that grows to four if they're in a nickel package — starting in the Vols secondary. He said hurry-up offenses have changed the game, allowing teams to get more snaps as defenses try to adjust.

"There are a lot of hurry-up offenses going in, trying to give them the gas, trying to catch defenses off guard," he said. "I just think they're getting more plays in every game."

South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw has his team's offense operating at a record-setting pace so far at nearly 480 yards a game. Despite the success, he thinks SEC defenses are as tough as ever even if the statistics don't bear that out.

"I know that all the teams are putting up big numbers," he said. "But I still think defense is going to win the championship in the SEC."

___

AP Sports Writers Gary Graves in Lexington, Ky.; Brett Martel in Baton Rouge, La.; Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tenn.; Teresa Walker in Nashville, Tenn.; and John Zenor in Birmingham, Ala., contributed to this report.

  • Central Alabama NewsMore>>

  • U.S. Space and Rocket Center: Make donation, take aerial tour of Huntsville with NASA Astronaut Robert “Hoot” Gibson

    U.S. Space and Rocket Center: Make donation, take aerial tour of Huntsville with NASA Astronaut Robert “Hoot” Gibson

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:52 PM EDT2014-04-24 01:52:00 GMT
    The U.S. Space & Rocket Center Foundation in Huntsville, Alabama is asking for your help to raise $70,000 to begin installation of a Gulfstream II Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA) in the U.S. Space & Rocket Center's Shuttle Park.The U.S. Space & Rocket Center Foundation in Huntsville, Alabama is asking for your help to raise $70,000 to begin installation of a Gulfstream II Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA) in the U.S. Space & Rocket Center's Shuttle Park.
    For a generous donation, one can take flight with a veteran NASA astronaut in a shuttle training aircraft and get a birds-eye view of Huntsville, including a rare view of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center campus, organizers announced Wednesday.More >>
    For a generous donation, one can take flight with a veteran NASA astronaut in a shuttle training aircraft and get a birds-eye view of Huntsville, including a rare view of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center campus, organizers announced Wednesday.More >>
  • More guilty pleas expected in multi-state dog fighting probe

    More guilty pleas expected in multi-state dog fighting probe

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 12:08 PM EDT2014-04-23 16:08:05 GMT
    MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Seven of the 14 people arrested in a multi-state dog fighting investigation have filed court papers saying they want to plead guilty. Jennifer McDonald of Fairburn, Ga.; Michael Martin of Auburn, Ala.; and Ricky Van Le of Biloxi, Miss., are the latest to file papers in federal court in Montgomery. Four others previously sent paperwork saying that they want to change their pleas to guilty. They are Lawrence Watford of Adel, Ga.; William Oneil Edwards of Elba, Ala.; DeMo...More >>
    MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Seven of the 14 people arrested in a multi-state dog fighting investigation have filed court papers saying they want to plead guilty. Jennifer McDonald of Fairburn, Ga.; Michael Martin of Auburn, Ala.; and Ricky Van Le of Biloxi, Miss., are the latest to file papers in federal court in Montgomery. Four others previously sent paperwork saying that they want to change their pleas to guilty. They are Lawrence Watford of Adel, Ga.; William Oneil Edwards of Elba, Ala.; DeMo...More >>
  • Parents remember daughter who died in ATV accident

    Parents remember daughter who died in ATV accident

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 7:54 PM EDT2014-04-22 23:54:01 GMT
    Gracie Abbott's parents never imagined that an Easter Sunday gathering would end the way it did. They tell me their daughter rode ATVs all time. And when they got the call that she was had been in an accident they were sure it wasn't that serious. But it was serious. "I talked to her. I told her that we were proud of her. I held her," said Sharon Abbott.Abbott says she's almost sure her daughter Gracie was gone at that point. She says Gracie's eyes were already fixated and dilated by the time...More >>
    Gracie Abbott's parents never imagined that an Easter Sunday gathering would end the way it did. They tell me their daughter rode ATVs all time. And when they got the call that she was had been in an accident they were sure it wasn't that serious. But it was serious. "I talked to her. I told her that we were proud of her. I held her," said Sharon Abbott.Abbott says she's almost sure her daughter Gracie was gone at that point. She says Gracie's eyes were already fixated and dilated by the time...More >>
  • Birmingham Area NewsMore>>

  • Burned body found in Fairfield identified as 22-year-old Pinson woman

    Burned body found in Fairfield identified as 22-year-old Pinson woman

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:52 PM EDT2014-04-24 01:52:02 GMT
     The body of 22-year-old Megan Elizabeth Monroe, of Pinson, was found outside this home in Fairfield, Saturday, April 19, 2014. (abc3340.com) The body of 22-year-old Megan Elizabeth Monroe, of Pinson, was found outside this home in Fairfield, Saturday, April 19, 2014. (abc3340.com)
    Police have identified the burned body found last weekend behind a vacant home in Fairfield as a 22-year-old Pinson woman.More >>
    Police have identified the burned body found last weekend behind a vacant home in Fairfield as a 22-year-old Pinson woman.More >>
  • NWS Birmingham to replace tower by May 3

    NWS Birmingham to replace tower by May 3

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:45 PM EDT2014-04-24 01:45:18 GMT
    The National Weather Service Birmingham office is offering weather-related alternatives after a recent transmitter outage. The service's tower, which sits atop Red Mountain, failed over the weekend. NWSMore >>
    UpdateMore >>
  • Birmingham Mayor issues takeover agreement amid lawsuit over precinct construction

    Birmingham Mayor issues takeover agreement amid lawsuit over precinct construction

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 6:34 PM EDT2014-04-23 22:34:26 GMT
    Birmingham Mayor William Bell addressed police officers Wednesday at the city's West Precinct following years of delay to construction of a new site.ABC 33/40 has learned some people say parts of the building is in dire need of upgrades. A few years ago, the city approved a plan for new construction. Since then, it has been delayed. A contractor for the project, Chris Woods, has also filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming city leaders stalled progress.Bell did not speak directly to that l...More >>
    Birmingham Mayor William Bell addressed police officers Wednesday at the city's West Precinct following years of delay to construction of a new site.ABC 33/40 has learned some people say parts of the building is in dire need of upgrades. A few years ago, the city approved a plan for new construction. Since then, it has been delayed. A contractor for the project, Chris Woods, has also filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming city leaders stalled progress.Bell did not speak directly to that l...More >>
Most Popular
Stories
Videos
loading...