If Ryan Anderson and Alabama’s defense treat opposing offensive players hatefully, it’s not personal.
It’s just business.
“It’s what defenders do,” said Anderson, a Crimson Tide linebacker. “Mostly, we’re all hateful guys. We hate everybody on the other team. Everybody that’s lined up across from us, we hate you; we’re trying to kill you.”
No. 1 Alabama certainly played with that sort of ferocity last Saturday in shutting out LSU and smothering star tailback Leonard Fournette — again. Afterward, when coach Nick Saban said the Tide has some “pretty hateful guys” on defense, he meant it as a compliment.
Tide defenders certainly didn’t take offense to their coach’s comments.
Alabama leads the nations in rushing defense and sacks per game and is second in total yards allowed and scoring defense going into Saturday’s game against Mississippi State.
And hatin’ with a vengeance. Anderson might have stated it more strongly than Saban would prefer, but the coach doesn’t want his defensive guys playing nice so long as they play by the rules.
“We want a guy that’s going to go hit a guy that weighs 250 pounds running downhill as hard as he can hit him,” the coach said.
Saban tells the story of his time with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns when the franchise brought in a guy to administer a psychological test to draft prospects. Chances are he didn’t interpret the results quite the same way as, say, an accounting firm.
“I looked at the guy and said, ‘What are we hiring these guys to do? We want them to be aggressive, we want them to be competitive, not in the real world but at least on the football field,'” Saban said. “These characteristics are important in defensive players. We’re evaluating these guys as to what they’re like on Sundays, which may not be the same.”
For instance, off the field it wouldn’t have been socially acceptable when defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne completely disrupted one first-half play after sending LSU guard Josh Boutte tumbling onto his backside. On the field, it was Alabama being Alabama.
The Tide held LSU to 125 yards and six first downs in a 10-0 victory, earning the entire defense Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week honors. It’s only the second time that award has gone to a defense collectively.
The dominating performance came after star safety Eddie Jackson was lost for the season with a broken leg. A defense that also lost four second-round draft picks to the NFL after last season just keeps on trucking.
The defense’s mental makeup was apparent in a game that was scoreless at halftime. LSU went nowhere on three drives starting near or across midfield, including the Tigers’ first possession. They took over at Alabama’s 33-yard line and gained 1 yard before missing a field goal.
The Tide yielded only 35 yards to Fournette on 17 rushes, four more than he gained in last season’s meeting. Anderson was named the SEC defensive player of the week.
Alabama, meanwhile, is giving up 66 yards a game on the ground.
“People play within the defense. We’ve all got one goal,” said Anderson, who leads the team in tackles for loss. “I feel like this team’s goals are more team-oriented. Guys aren’t talking about wanting 100 tackles, 60 tackles. Guys just want to stop the run, stop the pass, stop everybody we play.”
And if that effort is fueled by a healthy dose of hate, that’s OK with Alabama.
“Our front seven is very hateful, especially the D-linemen,” cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. “They just play mad, to me.”