Position outlook: defense line and linebackers
The Alabama Crimson Tide’s fall camp has come and gone, and much like it has in years past, the makeup of the 2012 team is beginning to take shape. Below is a breakdown of how each position appears to be shaping up.
Senior nose guard Jesse Williams has been the assumed first-string anchor of the middle of the Crimson Tide defensive line since the end of the 2011 season, but it wasn’t until the spring that the Tide was able to see just how effective Williams could be at the position. Overall, it appears he has fared quite well, gotten stronger and bigger and has become a vocal leader on the Crimson Tide defensive line.
Behind Williams is sophomore Brandon Ivory. The 6-foot-4, 315-pounder has shuffled around the defensive line during his time in Tuscaloosa, but his size provides him with the necessary tools to be an effective plug in the middle of the Alabama defense with either the second unit or as a replacement for Williams should he need a break or become injured.
Seniors Damion Square and Quinton Dial are both competing for a spot on the field as a defensive end, but both players have a chance to see a great portion of time on the field in 2012. Square is the more experienced player, but the skill, speed and size of Dial will be a welcomed asset to the Alabama defense should Square need a break. Regardless, Dial is the most likely candidate for Square’s spot on the line with the second unit. Both could share time on the field in different situations, and both will benefit Kirby Smart’s defense quite well.
The other end of the line is equally as talented. Junior Ed Stinson and sophomore Jeoffrey Pagan are the two players most likely to make the two-deep depth chart when it is released later in the fall. Stinson is coming off a productive spring and has a wealth of experience at the position over his past three seasons in Tuscaloosa.
The Crimson Tide linebacking corps has been one its strongest assets since head coach Nick Saban arrived in 2007. From Rolando McClain to Courtney Upshaw to Dont’a Hightower, the Tide has never been lacking in ability from its linebackers. This season, though the Tide is replacing a number of major contributors at the position from 2011, Alabama looks to be in good shape.
The “will” position will likely be shared between Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley. Both players are some of the Tide’s most experienced linebackers, but there may not be an opportunity to always have both on the field at the same time. One of the primary roles of the position is to drop back into pass coverage when needed, which requires swiftness and quick hips. Mosley has displayed this ability on numerous occasions and will likely be a mainstay for the Tide in those situations in 2012.
Adrian Hubbard put together a phenomenal spring campaign at the “sam” linebacker position, and for all intents and purposes he will carry that momentum into a role as the starter in 2012. The 6-foot-6, 248-pounder has a deceptive quickness and great instincts. Junior Jonathan Atchison is the likely candidate to backup Hubbard, but true freshman Denzel Devall has seen time at the position during the fall and could compete for playing time at some point in 2012.
Like Hubbard, sophomore Xzavier Dickson had a productive spring that saw him solidify his spot atop the pecking order at the “jack” position. Dickson played sound, disciplined defense during the Tide’s annual A-Day game and was praised at numerous points during the spring for the work he and Hubbard put into their craft. While Dickson’s spot is well within his control, the chance to back him up is a position that is up for grabs in the Alabama defense. Anthony Orr, Chris Bonds and a few freshmen have a chance to find time on the field when the Tide goes with its second unit.
The final position in the corps of linebackers at Alabama that is under hot competition is the “mike” position. Sophomore Trey DePriest is looking to capitalize on a stellar freshman season that saw him contribute in a number of ways on special teams and with the first-team defense. He is the most likely candidate for this spot, but behind him there are a number of players who are fighting for a chance to see the field.
CrimsonConfidential will take a look at the defensive backfield for the 2012 version of the Alabama defense in the coming days.
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