Alabama head football coach Nick Saban knows that his team has a problem with pass protection, and he isn’t going to hold his feelings back any longer.
Through seven games, Alabama has allowed 31 sacks, which is fourth-most in the country. Last year, over a span of 13 games, the Crimson Tide offensive line only allowed 22 sacks.
During his Monday press conference, Saban was asked a two-part question on whether the 31 allowed sacks were concerning and if anything could be done to fix the problem.
Saban didn’t waste any time answering the first part of the question.
“To the first part of your question, I would say hell yeah," Saban replied.
On Saturday, the Alabama pass protection was once again an issue. Alabama allowed five sacks against Arkansas, continuing a streak of five consecutive games in which Jalen Milroe had been sacked at least four times. That ties the longest streak by a quarterback in the past 20 seasons.
Pass protection is very much a concern, and as far as solving the issue, Saban suggested some "are things that we could fix."
“I do think we have guys that are capable,” Saban said. “I think it goes back to that same attention to detail. I mean there’s little things, like in certain protections, I know I have inside help. So why would I get beat outside? … These are not all capability issues. Some of them are things that we could fix.”
Alabama’s biggest issue on the offensive line so far this season has come from the left tackle position. True freshman Kadyn Proctor has been the starter at that position with redshirt freshman Elijah Pritchett sharing some reps in a positional rotation. Both players have struggled to keep Jalen Milroe upright, especially on Saturday. The two were responsible for all five sacks allowed against Arkansas on Saturday.
On the other side of the line, right tackle J.C. Latham has been the Crimson Tide’s best protector of the quarterback. Latham was rewarded for his efforts with SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors over the weekend. His consistency with protecting the quarterback has led some to question why he hasn’t been moved to the left side to protect Milroe’s blindside.
On Monday, Saban explained why Latham had remained on the right side of the line.
“Well, he's really a good right tackle,” Saban said. “He's played really well, obviously, being SEC offensive lineman of the week. He had a really good game in the last game. He's big, strong, physical. He's the prototype right tackle that everybody would look for in terms of having a power guy who is effective in being able to pass block well enough.”
“I guess you always hope that if we move the right tackle to left tackle, that would make everything better," he continued. "But I guess the question you also have to ask yourself is would that make us any better at right tackle? Or do you just try to attack the solution of trying to get the left tackle to play to the standard that you need him to play, without making multiple changes to the offensive line. We can have a debate about that. Nobody really knows the answer to that. But we have made a commitment to try to keep some stability with the guys where they're playing, and get the guys to play left tackle better.”
Saban doesn’t have much time to try and clean up the issues on the offensive line with a Tennessee team that is one of the best pass rushing teams in the nation, averaging four sacks a game.
Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CT inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, No. 11 Alabama (6-1, 4-0 in the SEC) will host No. 17 Tennessee (5-1, 2-1) on CBS.
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