FORT LAUDERDALE | It was barely more than a week ago that University of Alabama coach Nick Saban expressed concern over the consistency of his defense's pass rush.
And getting to Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson will be a priority in Monday night's BCS National Championship Game. But the Fighting Irish freshman's ability to avoid the rush and run for first downs -- or scramble to throw for them -- means the pass rush must be disciplined.
Too aggressive an approach creates easy escapes from the pocket for Golson, and much like they did in containing Denard Robinson in the season-opening win over Michigan at Cowboys Stadium, the Crimson Tide wants to keep Golson in the pocket as much as it wants to sack him.
"Up front, if (we) can play with pass rush discipline, they're going to give us an opportunity to affect him with coverage or affect him with pressure," said UA defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. "That's what we are always trying to do, affect the quarterback in some kind of way. But he's good at breaking it."
Golson has not only passed for more than 2,000 yards this season, he is the team's fourth-leading rusher with 305 net yards and a team-high five rushing touchdowns. But beyond his rushing ability, Damion Square noted Golson's knack for scrambling for more time to throw on the run, which can often result in a big play. Smart noted that in reviewing game film of the Fighting Irish, many of their most explosive offensive plays invariably came from Golson forcing defensive backfields to cover receivers for too long.
"That guy is going to extend and make things happen. He's going to make a defensive back break coverage and things like that," Square said. "Whenever you're playing against a guy that can do that with his feet, it's always detrimental to a defense. It's another aspect that you have to practice."
Added Smart: "You can't give the guy the ability to run all around and make plays, yet that's what he's going to do, so it's who's got the greater will to contain and keep him in the pocket versus him, hey, aborting and going outside the pocket. So it's a tough thing."
UA backup quarterback Blake Sims simulates opposing mobile quarterbacks for the Alabama scout team, and has drawn strong reviews from the first-team defense for his effectiveness in preparing them for quarterbacks like Golson.
"Luckily we have a guy like Blake Sims that can simulate that in practice," Square said.
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0196.