The 2011 Alabama defense is one of the top defenses of all time. It set a standard for Crimson Tide defense that has been hard to live up to since, and has become the defense Bama fans compare each years unit to. So can the 2015 defense play to the level of the 2011 defense? It would be unfair to say they will be able to live up to that level of dominance, but there are certainly similar traits between the two.
The biggest similarity is experience. The 2010 defense regularly played 15 different guys, 11 of them returned to the 2011 team. In comparison, the 2014 defensive unit had 18 regular contributors, 13 of which return in 2015.
Statistically, the 2010 and 2014 defenses are also similar. In 2010, Bama surrendered 286 yards per game (110 rushing, 176 passing), while the 2014 defense allowed 328 yards per game (102 rushing, 226 passing). Will the tide be able to make the same statistical improvement between last year and this year as they did between 2010 and 2011? In 2011, Alabama allowed 103 fewer yards per game than in the previous year, giving up only 183 a game on average. It would be crazy to expect the same level of improvement in 2015, however, considering the amount of experience returning to this years defense, it is not far fetched to believe that Alabama will have another special defense in 2015.
One key difference between the two is that the 2011 team returned the entire secondary from the previous season, while the 2015 team will break in two new starters at safety. The secondary is a place where inexperience tends be the most noticeable due to the complexity of the coverages in a Saban-coached defense. This could give the ’15 unit a weak spot, which is something that simply did not exist on the 2011 defense. It will be interesting to see how the new safety’s develop over the course of the season. If they are able to grasp things mentally, this defense could find itself playing at an elite level by mid season.
Will the 2015 Crimson Tide defense perform at the same level as 2011? Statistically, I do not see that happening.. Not with the high flying offenses we see all over the country now. However, with the experience returning, Alabama fans could be looking at another elite defense by the end of the year.