TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Following Alabama’s 10-0 win over LSU on Saturday, Nick Saban used an interesting word to describe his defense.
“We got some pretty hateful guy that play defense around here that are pretty good competitors,” Saban said. “When they get challenged a little bit, they usually respond and I thought they responded really well tonight.”
Along with shutting the Tigers out, Alabama held LSU’s offense to 125 total yards, including just 35 rushing yards for star running back Leonard Fournette.
But what does it mean to be “hateful?”
Alabama outside linebacker Ryan Anderson said its an accurate description.
“It’s what defenders do. Mostly we are hateful guys,” said Anderson, who is No. 3 in the SEC with 12.5 tackles for loss. “We hate everybody on the other team. Everybody that is lined up across from us, we hate you. We are going to try to kill you.”
Ryan Anderson explains why Alabama's defense is so "hateful." pic.twitter.com/iWhMUJIWoA
— Marq Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) November 7, 2016
There’s a fine line between staying under control and not letting the emotions of the game become too much.
Anderson and Alabama’s defense have figured out how to walk that line.
“You’ve got to play within the game,” Anderson said. “When you can hit somebody, you hit them. We ain’t passing up no shots on nobody, but we ain’t gone take no dirty shots either.”
Anderson isn’t the only player who agrees with Saban’s assessment.
Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey has noticed the defense’s hateful ways as well.
“Our front 7 is very hateful, especially the D-lineman,” Humphrey said. “They just play mad.”
On Monday, Saban elaborated on why he felt the defense was hateful.
“To be a good competitor, you’ve got to have a little stuff in your neck, if you know what that means,” Saban said. “I don’t know if I have to explain that too. I hope not. That’s what good defensive players are.”
From there, Saban shared a story about the time he was the defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns. According to Saban, the team decided to hire a specialist ahead of the draft that year to administer “TAP tests for their (the players) psychological disposition.”
Saban didn’t agree with the type of testing. While players are required to act a certain way off the field, Saban wanted his players to be “aggressive” and “competitive” on the field.
Saban said evaluating a guy based on what he does in Sunday school has no correlation to how a player needs to act between the lines during games.
“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,” Saban said.
Alabama has plenty of guys like that, and it has showed against LSU and every other team this season.
Despite the talent lost from last year’s front seven, Alabama is on pace to become the best run defense during Saban’s time in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama is holding teams to 66 rushing yards per game and 2.09 yards per carry. Both of those are No. 1 in the nation and the best of the Saban era.
“Even though we have an expectation for our guys to represent themselves off the field in a first-class way, I think good defensive football players all have a competitive edge about them that requires a lot of mental toughness, a lot of physical toughness, and they’ve got to have a lot of resiliency,” Saban said. “Because sometimes, you go in the game with difficult circumstances — sudden change occurs or whatever it might be.
“To respond the right way to those things takes the right kind of psychological disposition. I think we just have a lot of guys on our defensive team that are very, very competitive.”