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Alabama Preview 2006 - Defense
Alabama Crimson Tide
Posted Aug 8, 2006

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 Greenwood.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Juwan Simpson, 64
Sacks: Bobby Greenwood, 3
Interceptions: Ramzee Robinson, Juwan Simpson, 2

Star of the defense: Senior LB Juwan Simpson
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:
Depth, starting experience

Defensive Line
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 consistent pressure.
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

Projected Starters
- 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 quarterback hurries
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.

Top Backups
- DE Chris Harris, Sr. - 8 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4 TFL, 1 interception
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 quarterback hurries
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 sacks.

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

Projected Starters
- 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 quarterback hurries
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.

Top Backups
- 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.

Defensive backs
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

Projected Starters
- 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 up passes
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.

Top Backups
- 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.
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.

Special Teams
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

Projected Starters
- 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.

Related Stories
Alabama Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
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Alabama Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
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Alabama Preview 2006 - Offense
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