Alabama prepares for loud environment

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Dalvin Tomlinson makes a tackle against ULM. CW | Layton Dudley

Terrin Waack

Tight end O.J. Howard remembers what it was like last time the team made the trip to College Station, Texas. Howard was a freshman at the time.

“It was hot, I remember that obviously,” he said. “It was just loud, probably the biggest thing I remember about it. Just hot and loud, that’s it.”

To recreate that environment, Alabama simulated crowd noise during practices in order to figure out what snap count it wants to use when surrounded by constant noise.

“You just have to watch the ball because when you get there, it may be loud on some plays and on some plays it may not be as loud,” Howard said. “I think just watching the ball is the biggest thing.”

Good blocking is necessary against a team like Texas A&M. The Aggies are ranked No. 2 in the SEC with 19 sacks and trail only Florida’s 21 sacks.

“I think our biggest emphasis so far at my positive, personally, has just been blocking those guys, getting our hands inside, finishing blocks,” Howard said. “It’s been going well so far.”

Howard looks forward to contributing to the running game anyway he can. If Alabama establishes the running game early then the passing game opens up. 

Defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson said that Alabama’s final score of 59-0 against Texas A&M last season has not been brought up once this week leading up to the rematch between the two teams. Texas A&M runs a quick passing game that Tomlinson and the rest of the defense has been preparing for in practice this week.

“You have to expect the cut-blocks more since they’re so quick releasing the ball and stuff, and you just have to get your hands up and at least try and bat a couple of them down,” he said.

With a total of six batted passes this season, Tomlinson said every game he always tries to get two. When he does meet his goal and gets a batted pass, Tomlinson is excited until he gets back to the sidelines. Then the sting of the ball kicks in and he starts to feel it.

If the pass hits in wrong spot, it hurts.

“Pretty much you want to get it in your palm,” he said. “Sometimes it hits you in the wrist or forearm, or your fingertip. You feel it in certain places more than others.”

When the opportunity to get a batted pass doesn’t arise, then Tomlinson is looking to put as much pressure as he can on the quarterback, but it’s not just the defensive line that needs to be prepared.

“I think we have a lot of weapons in our secondary this year that we probably didn’t [last year],” Howard said.

Alabama’s defense is big on rotating players in and out to keep their energy levels high.

“That’s probably one of the biggest things I can take away from it is a lot of guys are always fresh so they’re playing fast all the time when it comes to one-on-one,” Howard said.

With a fast secondary and a strong defensive line combined together, Alabama has a defense to be reckoned with, and one that continues to improve and grow stronger as the season progresses.

A lot of that is due to players, such as Tomlinson with freshman Daron Payne, helping each other out in order to improve defense as a whole.

“Last year, I felt like we were a family, but now everybody is trying to help each other each and every day, so it’s even more of a family, like a stronger brother relationship,” Tomlinson said.