— FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart runs the stingiest defense in the country when it comes to yards allowed, but sees a bunch of challenges in preparing for Notre Dame.
The second-ranked Crimson Tide plays the No. 1 Fighting Irish on Monday in the BCS title game and on Friday it was Alabama's turn to have its defensive leaders talk with reporters.
Smart said Notre Dame's running back-by-committee features a player with tremendous one-step quickness and explosiveness, Theo Riddick, and two with great speed, Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III.
"Those two dudes are fast, they are really fast," Smart said. "We recruited Atkinson, so we knew that. And the other guy (Wood) is just as fast. Riddick is quicker than the other two. He's got the ability to make you miss, a good stiff arm. You wouldn't think a former receiver would run with that much power. They're really good backs."
He said you have to seek out different tendencies with each back, noting that LSU had four runners to gameplan against in last year's championship game.
Notre Dame runs "all the same plays with each one of them, so they don't give you a tendency," Smart said.
Riddick has run for 880 yards and five touchdowns, Wood 740 and four TDs and Atkinson 378 and five scores. Riddick also is third on the team with 35 catches.
Defensive line standout Damion Square said an athletic quarterback like Notre Dame's redshirt freshman Everett Golson is a great weapon because he can keep plays alive.
"A quarterback like that can make them right for anything that he calls," Square said. "He can call a play that's probably busted and then the quarterback can scramble around for five seconds and create things and create havoc for our defense."
Square said the linemen will have to rush him from the correct angles and try not to let Golson buy extra time to let his receivers get open.
Another task for the Tide is contending with tight end Tyler Eifert, the Mackey Award winner as the nation's best.
"We haven't faced a tight end with this much talent," Smart said. "The guy's a special player and people don't give this kid enough credit for his blocking ability. He blocks with great toughness and great effort and really forces you to play different defensively because he's so multiple."