Nick Saban Still Looking to Improve Alabama Defense

By Terry Johnson
John David Mercer – USA TODAY Sports

After winning the national championship three times during his six years in Tuscaloosa, no one would blame Nick Saban for being content with what’s he’s accomplished as the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Not surprisingly, he’s anything but satisfied and has made a number of position changes to help make the Tide defense even better this year.

Let’s be honest, there’s no reason to think that ‘Bama won’t win its fourth national championship in the last five years. After all, the Crimson Tide returns 13 starters from a year ago, and plays a relatively favorable schedule in 2013.

However, what makes Alabama even more of a threat to take home the crystal trophy this year is that it’s still actively looking for ways to improve. After leading the nation in rushing defense, total defense and scoring defense last season, most coaches would make very few—if any—changes on that side of the ball during spring practice.

Saban is not one of them.

Just one season after moving All-American left tackle Barrett Jones to center in order to get his five best offensive linemen on the field, Saban has made a few changes to bolster the Tide’s already stout defense. Xzavier Dickson, who started ten games at Jack linebacker last year, has spent all of spring practice at defensive end. In addition, Christion Jones (ten starts) and Cyrus Jones (two starts) have both switched from receiver to defensive back.

Since spring practice doesn’t conclude until Apr. 20, it’s tough to know whether these position changes are permanent (although Christion Jones has practiced with both the offense and the defense). However, the fact that Saban is moving players who logged significant time at other positions last season speaks volumes about what he expects from his defense. Regardless of what happened in the past, he’s always going to do whatever it takes to put his best eleven defenders on the field—even if it means shuffling some returning starters around.

In other words, don’t expect Alabama’s defense to take a step back anytime soon.

Terry Johnson is a college football writer for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TPJCollFootball and/or email him at

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