Most opposing offenses struggled to run through Alabama's wall of All-Americans last season. Now, the Crimson Tide longs to give quarterbacks similar treatment.
"Probably the one thing we needed was a good pass rush coach on our team," coach Nick Saban said.
With that in mind, Saban made two attention-getting hires _ James Willis from Auburn and Sal Sunseri, a former Carolina Panthers defensive line coach who tutored Julius Peppers and Kris Jenkins.
"Coach Sal (has) brought a lot of new ideas, a lot of new energy," defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said. "It's a big emphasis for the guys up front that we've got to do a better job of getting to the quarterback.
Saban hopes to bolster that aspect of the Alabama defense, which ranked third nationally in yards allowed and second against the run. The Tide's 26 sacks, however, ranked just seventh in the Southeastern Conference.
End Bobby Greenwood, last year's top pass rusher with five sacks, is gone. So is All-America free safety Rashad Johnson.
The primary run pluggers are still on hand with All-Americans at noseguard, Terrence Cody, and middle linebacker, Rolando McClain, along with fellow middle linebacker Dont'a Hightower.
But where will the sacks and pressure come from?
End Brandon Deaderick (four sacks) returns, and Lorenzo Washington is expected to take Greenwood's spot after starting two years ago at nose guard.
Washington said last year's emphasis was on getting enough pressure to affect the quarterback, even if he did manage to get the ball away.
"Rushing the passer is not all about getting sacks," he said. "When you go out there on special teams to block the kick, you don't go out there saying, 'Block the kick.' You want to do something to block the kick, do something to get in the kicker's head. That's the same thing when you rush the passer.
"When you keep getting back there, when you keep hitting the quarterback, he's going to pull the ball down early. He's going to release it early, just little things like that."
The three-man front is built more for bulk than speed, which might help explain why the run defense was more effective than the pass rush. Washington, Deaderick and Cody are all at least 6-foot-4 and average more than 310 pounds, though that's skewed somewhat by Cody's 354-pound frame. Even backup end Marcell Dareus weighs in at more than 300.
Dareus and Washington both have played noseguard.
Two other potential pass rushers are Eryk Anders and Courtney Upshaw, vying for the starting spot at outside linebacker. The Tide is hoping it all adds up to better coverage.
"That's one of the big things about our defense this year," Hightower said. "Last year, we were able to stop the run pretty well. But in passing situations, we didn't get as many sacks as we hoped for. This year we're looking to hopefully turn that into one of our (strengths)."