Alabama defense's focus: Stop Robinson

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
5:47
PM ET
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama defense is making no bones about it: They plan on knocking the bronze off Denard Robinson's Heisman campaign.

The Crimson Tide want to get to the Michigan Wolverines' indomitable quarterback and make their presence known from the opening snap when the two schools meet in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday.

Defensive end Damion Square already has a plan laid out. He can even tell you the way it will happen.

"Bootleg. Sack. First play," Square said with a smirk. "13-yard loss."

There wasn't any hesitation in Square's voice. It's something he's thought about often.

"No doubt about it," he said.

The Alabama defense will have its hands full with Robinson, who enters the season as a potential candidate to win the Heisman Trophy. The senior quarterback is a play-maker on offense, a threat throwing the ball or tucking it down and taking off in a sprint down the sideline. Last season, Robinson led the team in passing and rushing. He threw for 2,173 yards and rushed for 1,349 more. He combined to score 36 touchdowns.

Alabama coach Nick Saban compared Robinson to another Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, one who gave the Crimson Tide fits in 2010.

"Offensively, they have probably as significant a player as we've played against maybe since Cam Newton in terms of the quarterback position, in terms of what he can do in the game, in the offense and how the offense is sort of built around and features him as a player," Saban said. "They have lots of good players, but he's the guy that -- whether it's a zone-read play or a quarterback power, or pass play -- he makes a lot of significant plays in the game."

Saban wasn't done gushing over Robinson there. In emphasizing the necessity to keep containment, he drew a comparison to another player who could break down defenses -- this time on the basketball court.

"Pushing the pocket. Not losing contain. Stay on your feet," Saban said. "Guys like to jump and bat balls down. Well, this guy can ball-fake you like Michael Jordan and take off running and you'll say, 'Well, how did that happen?' "

If Robinson can run with the ball like Jordan and throw it like Newton, the Alabama defense could be in for a long day.

The key to stopping that from happening, said Square, begins with containment. If the front seven can do that, the defense will be in good position.

"You want to keep him in the pocket and do your job up front so the guys in the secondary don't necessarily have to worry about coming down or breaking coverage and things like that," he said.

One part of keeping containment is not biting on Robinson's pass fake. Square said the team has been working on not leaving their feet to bring him down, keeping their hands up and running through the tackle.

"It's tempting when a guy's right in front of you and he pulls the ball and your first instinct is to come up off your feet," Square explained. "But you have to understand who you're playing. ... Some guys you can rush the passer relentlessly, and some guys you can't because they will create problems with the rush lanes and things like that."

Said senior linebacker Nico Johnson, "If you jump, you're pretty much not on the field. You're going by him. All he has to do is pump fake and run by you."

Johnson described Robinson as being "super, super fast" and outlined the challenges in facing a quarterback with his capabilities.

"He doesn't get credit for how good he is," Johnson said. "He's a really good athlete. Really, he's a better passer than what people think he is. We're just going to take advantage of every opportunity we get and try to contain him.

"We're going to have to be clicking on all cylinders."

Johnson stopped short of saying he's had visions of Robinson in his dreams, but he had to admit that No. 16 has been on his mind of late.

"I think about it all the time," Johnson said. "What can we do to make him feel less comfortable in the pocket or running the football?"

Square said the team is used to seeing Robinson reel off big plays.

"You see that on ESPN watching the top 10 week in and week out," he said.

On Sept. 1, the Alabama defense wants to see how he can take a punch. Johnson said one of the goals is to "rattle the quarterback early" and "make them one-dimensional."

Square, for his part, just wants to give Robinson something to remember him by.

"Anytime I get my hands on the quarterback I'm trying to make it as ugly as possible," Square said. "That's just what I do as a D-lineman. You don't get to touch those guys often. Anytime I come off the ball and I put 100 percent effort into pass-rushing, I get my hands on him I'm going to try and make him remember it."

Alex Scarborough | email

Alabama/SEC reporter

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