Saban Explains Challenge of Defending D’Eriq King
Trevor Lawrence, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, Deshaun Watson, Joe Burrow. These are the top quarterbacks to have a victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide during the Nick Saban era. All four, and many of the other signal-callers that have pulled out a win have been dual-threat quarterbacks.
That's not to say Alabama struggles on such an overwhelming scale that facing a dual-threat quarterback should be concerning. After all, Alabama's most recent victory in a football game came against Justin Fields, a quality dual-threat quarterback.
That said, Alabama's next opponent carries with it one of the best runners at quarterback Alabama has seen since Watson: D'Eriq King.
King comes into the season with 1,959 career rushing yards, 538 in 2020. King's dynamic nature extends to places hard to imagine. King has 62 career receptions and 35 career touchdowns from scrimmage alone.
He's dangerous. How do you defend dangerous?
Fight fire with fire, fight speed with speed.
The Alabama Crimson Tide defense carries a lot of speed, particularly where it matters: off-ball linebacker. Henry To'o To'o and Christian Harris both stand 6'2", To'o To'o at 225lbs and Harris at 232lbs. Both are well known for their speed and athleticism, which bodes well for Alabama.
"I think team speed on defense in this day and age of football is very, very important with all the people who run spread who really are going to make you cover horizontally as well as vertically, the entire field," Saban said Monday afternoon. "And when you have great athletes that have great speed, especially at the quarterback position, that adds another element to that, that you're out here spread out trying to cover all these guys, and now you've got a quarterback that's got a great ability to scramble, extend plays, make plays scrambling, throwing as well as running, that adds another element to it.
"[King] certainly does that extremely well, he executes their offense extremely well. He's very comfortable in how he manages the game for them, gets them in plays that have a great chance to be successful for them and he's a good decision maker whether it's the RPOs the bubbles the smokes the plays that they run that complement the running game. So I think this guy presents lots of issues because he's a great player, a great athlete a great quarterback all rolled into one."
Stopping the scrambling ability of a guy like King isn't the be-all, end-all. Miami won half of its eight victories with King having less than 35 rushing yards. In the two losses to Clemson and North Carolina, King's struggles as a passer were more profound than his rushing totals.
King's dynamic nature is what makes him so dangerous, but it's compounded by his ability to succeed in multiple ways. He's won with bad rushing days and he's won with bad passing days. Setting in on one factor isn't the play.
Senior defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis put defending his opposition in as simple terms as he can.
"Really just taking what they give us," Mathis said. "Being patient, not trying to do too much, just using the technique that we work on all week."