Alabama Preview 2006 - Defense
Alabama Crimson Tide
Preview 2006 - Tide Defense
What you need to know ...
Alabama finished last year with the nation's second ranked
defense allowing a mere 255 yards per game and finished first in
scoring D allowing 10.7 points per game. Expect both
of those numbers to go way up this year, but don't expect the Tide
defense to crash and burn despite returning only four starters
and losing the top stars from the linebacking corps and
secondary. Depth is a major, major issue in the back seven, but
defensive coordinator Joe Kines has a few good new starters to
work with like FS Jeffrey Dukes, LB Terrence Jones and DE Bobby
Tackles: Juwan Simpson, 64
Sacks: Bobby Greenwood, 3
Interceptions: Ramzee Robinson, Juwan Simpson, 2
Star of the defense: Senior LB Juwan Simpson
Depth, starting experience
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior LB
Matt Collins or Redshirt freshman LB Prince Hall
Unsung star on the rise: Senior FS Jeffrey Dukes
Best pro prospect: Senior DT Jeremy Clark
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Simpson, 2) Clark, 3)
CB Ramzee Robinson
Strength of the defense: Athleticism, tackle
Weakness of the defense:
The line was a rock against the run last year but didn't
get to the quarterback as much as you might have thought considering the
gaudy defensive rankings and the presence of freak-of-nature athlete
Mark Anderson on the end. Depth will be the early concern with no one of
note to count on right away and hoping for several long-time reserves to
step up and become major factors. The starting front four will be more
than fine as long as 300-pound tackles Jeremy Clark and Dominic Lee can
stay healthy and ends Wallace Gilberry and Bobby Greenwood can generate
The key to the unit: Quickly develop quality depth
for a good, reliable rotation. Get to the quarterback a bit more.
Defensive Line Rating: 7.5
- LDE Wallace Gilberry, Jr. - 37 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 10
TFL, 6 quarterback hurries
It'll be up to Gilberry to take over as the team's top pass rusher now
that Mark Anderson is gone. One of the few returning starters to the
defense, the 254-pound junior has to be a steady leader up front. He's
great at getting into the backfield on running plays with too much
quickness for most tackles. However, he'll have to prove he can continue
to generate pressure as the marked man on the line.
- LDT Jeremy Clark, Sr. - 18 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 2
Clark has been a steady anchor on the line for the last three years, but
he hasn't been able to get much recognition spending most of his time
bottling things up so everyone else can shine. He's a quick 305 pounds
and durable. Joining Wallace Gilberry as the only returning starters on
the line, he'll be counted on to do even more this year.
- RDT Dominic Lee, Sr. - 4 tackles
The 303-pound senior will add size up front as one of the team's biggest
linemen. He saw time in almost every game last year and has plenty of
experience as a reserve, but he hasn't been all that productive yet with
only 26 tackles in 25 games. After being in the mix for the last three
years, he's expected to do more than hold his own in Rudy Griffin's old
spot at right tackle.
- RDE Keith Saunders, Jr. - 11 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL
Saunders started to play more of a role last year, but mostly saw time
in mop-up duty and in the easy win over Utah State. He'll push for time
this year along with Bobby Greenwood on the right side and needs to
establish himself as a steady situational pass rusher. He has the
athleticism to do it.
- DE Chris Harris, Sr. - 8 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4 TFL,
A key reserve over the last two years, the 6-5 senior will see more
action on the left side playing behind Wallace Gilberry. He picked off a
pass against Florida setting up a touchdown in the 31-3 win. With his
height and frame, he's tough to get passes around.
- DT J.P. Adams, Sr. - 9 tackles
While not the space-eater on the inside that the starters are, Adams
needs to be more of a factor in the rotation after playing in only 14
games in his three years. The 288-pound senior will likely just be
keeping the backup seat warm before Byron Walton gets more in the mix on
the right side.
DE Bobby Greenwood, Soph. - 15 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 TFL, 5
It'll be asking a lot for Greenwood to immediately match the lost
production of Mark Anderson, but he has the pass rushing skills to put
up huge numbers if the rest of the line allows him to see one-on-one
blocking. A rangy 245 pounds on his 6-6 frame, Greenwood has to prove he
can consistently hold up against the run, but he should lead the team in
Look for the linebacking corps to take a step back after
losing the combined 142 tackles of DeMeco Ryans and Freddie Roach, but
the biggest loss will be their leadership. These two were the heartbeat
of the nasty defense and were always making big plays. Juwan Simpson
will be the new leader as the only returning starter, but don't expect
things to get that bad with Matt Collins and Prince Hall combining in
the middle and Terrence Jones ready to shine now that he's finally in
the starting role on the strongside. Developed depth is a major problem.
The key to the unit: Holding up against the run. This
group can move, but it's asking a lot for the new starters to match the
run stopping production of DeMeco Ryans and Freddie Roach.
Linebacker Rating: 7.5
- Juwan Simpson, Sr. - 64 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 6 TFL, 2
interceptions, 4 quarterback hurries
The only returning starter to the linebacking corps, Simpson has 34
games of experience and 157 career tackles as a rock on the weakside.
He's not used as a pass rusher all that often, but he's effective when
he has to get into the backfield. At 222 pounds, he's a strong tackler
and smart enough to always be in the right position. He's a fantastic
all-around athlete who has to be one of the team's leading tacklers
cleaning everything up that the rest of the new starters miss.
- Matt Collins, Jr. - 13 tackles
Collins has mostly made his mark in the classroom as a two-time Academic
All-SEC performer. Now he'll have to take over Freddie Roach's spot in
the middle and has to use his talents as a good run stuffer to be one of
the team's new leaders. He might not have great range, but he's a strong
hitter who should put up big numbers.
- Terrence Jones, Sr. - 21 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4 TFL, 3
It's Jones' time to shine with some huge shoes to fill replacing
All-American DeMeco Ryans on the strongside. He would've been starting
for most teams over the last two seasons, but the Bama linebacking corps
has been too crowded with talent. Even so, he has 50 career tackles and
5.5 tackles for loss despite playing a limited role. While he can move
with defensive back speed, there's a little concern about his size for
the strongside at only 220 pounds.
- Prince Hall, RFr.
Don't be shocked if the 240-pound Hall has the opening day job in the
middle. All he's missing is a little bit of experience, but he has more
range than Matt Collins and is just as big a hitter. He was improving
practice by practice this spring.
- Demarcus Waldrop, Jr. - 16 tackles
Speed, speed and more speed. That's what Waldrop brings to the weakside,
but he needs it to make up for his size at only 5-11 and 190 pounds. He
has been a tough backup for the last two years with 38 tackles and
should see plenty of time behind Juwan Simpson.
The SEC's top pass defense will need a miracle to be
nearly as good. Safeties Roman Harper and Charlie Peprah along with
starting corner Anthony Madison are gone taking away production and
leaving next to no experienced depth. Ramzee Robinson is the only
returning starter coming back to his left corner spot, but he's not an
All-American. Jeffrey Dukes appears to be a top playmaker at free
safety, but he has to prove he can be as good in games as he is in
practice. CB Eric Gray and SS Marcus Carter are big-time question marks.
The key to the unit: Quickly developing more players
to provide more options at each position. Settling on a number two
corner on the other side of Ramzee Robinson is also vital.
Secondary Rating: 7
- CB Simeon Castille, Jr. - 28 tackles, 2
interceptions, 2 sacks, 4 TCL, 9 broken up passes
After two solid years as a reserve, it'll be a shock of Castille doesn't
make some noise as a starter on the right side and beats out Eric Gray
by the start of the season. He's a big corner who always seems to be in
the right position. With his experience and all-around ability, he'll at
least be a key player in the rotation.
- FS Jeffrey Dukes, Sr. - 16 tackles, 1 interception
Expect Dukes to be Bama's new defensive star. He has taken the starting
role by storm flying all over the field in spring practice and making
several big plays showing off impressive range. He's a smart player with two years of backup
experience, so don't expect him to make too many big mistakes. The
former JUCO transfer is a big hitter and won't miss many tackles.
- SS Marcus Carter, Jr. - 1 tackle
Carter didn't see the light of day last year playing behind Charlie
Peprah, but the starting strong safety job is his for the taking. He's
not huge at 6-1 and 190 pounds and has only been a factor on special
teams so far. In other words, he's the biggest wild card on the defense
after coming to Alabama with huge prep hype. He appears to have improved
by leaps and bounds this spring.
- CB Ramzee Robinson, Sr. - 32 tackles, 2 interceptions, 7 broken
The only returning starter to the secondary has to play a big, big role
as a lockdown coverman on the left side. He's a reliable tackler with
100 career stops, but his real worth will be in the pass defense where
he'll likely end up finding his way defending each team's number one
receiver early on. He's a hard worker who has made great strides over
the last few years, and now the hope is for him to take another step and
become an All-SEC caliber player if all is fine after sitting out this
spring with wrist and back injuries.
- CB Eric Gray, Jr. - 6 tackles
Gray has had a hard time finding playing time over his first two
seasons, but the job on the right side appears to be his unless Simeon
Castille takes over. A special teamer for most of his career so far,
Gray is a terrific athlete with with the speed to hang with most of the
faster receivers in the SEC. He'll be challenged early and often as
teams try to stay away from Ramzee Robinson.
- SS Rashad Johnson, Soph. - 7 tackles
A special teamer as a freshman, Johnson will see time in the secondary
behind Marcus Carter. The former running back is only 5-11 and 178
pounds and needs polish as a defensive back.
- CB Chris Rogers, RFr.
The understudy behind Ramzee Robinson on the left side could
play a key role before the season is over. He's 6-1 and has great hands,
but it remains to be seen if he has cornerback ability. Originally
slated to play safety, he moved over last year and spent the season
learning the position. With his size and ball skills, he needs to grow
into a top reserve.
The punting game can't be much worse after averaging only
32.6 yards per kick, so the hope will be for more out of new punter P.K.
Fitzgerald or even Jeff Aul. Jamie Christensen is back, but for all his
accolades because of his last second heroics, he has to be more
consistent. Finding a regular kick returner is important until Ty
Prothro comes back.
The key to the unit: More pop to the punting game and
finding a solid punt and kick returner.
Offensive Line Rating: 6.5
- PK Jamie Christensen, Jr. - 16-25 FGs, 25-26 PATs
"Money" might not be the best placekicker around, but there are few
steadier in the clutch after he nailed three game-winning field goals
connecting on a 31-yarder to beat Ole Miss, a 34-yarder to beat
Tennessee and a 45-yarder to beat Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. He has
a big leg with 14 of his 50 kickoffs gong to touchbacks.
- P P.J. Fitzgerald, Fr.
Starting punter Jeremy Schatz might be gone, but he struggled last year.
Fitzgerald will get the first look now that Jeff Aul left the team.