2008 CFN Alabama Preview |
2008 Bama Offense
2008 Bama Defense |
2008 Bama Depth
2007 CFN Alabama Preview |
2006 CFN Alabama
What you need to know: The
defense was solid last season and was all set to take another
step forward this year until the linebacking corps took a hit.
Ezekial Knight was forced to quit football thanks to a heart
condition, Jimmy Johns was booted for allegedly selling cocaine,
and Prince Hall was suspended for violating team rules.
Fortunately, Rolondo McClain is back while the recruiting class
should bring in instant help from Jerrell Harris and Courtney
Upshaw. The line in the 3-4 is fine, but nothing special without
Wallace Gilberry and his 10 sacks and 27 tackles for loss. A
pass rusher has to emerge. FS Rashad Johnson leads a fast
secondary that'll get a boost from freshmen Mark Barron and
Tackles: Rashad Johnson, 94
Sacks: Lorenzo Washington, 3
Interceptions: Rashad Johnson, 6
Star of the defense: Junior FS Rashad Johnson
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DE
Unsung star on the rise: Freshman SS Mark Barron
Best pro prospect: Johnson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Johnson, 2) LB Rolondo
McClain, 3) NT Lorenzo Washington
Strength of the defense: Tackle, the freshmen
Weakness of the defense:
Linebacker, sure-thing pass rusher
Projected Starters: The run defense will once
again revolve around the nose where 6-4, 283-pound junior Lorenzo
Washington might be more like an end, but has been a rock-solid
tackle, He started 12 games last year making 36 tackles with three sacks
and 4.5 tackles for loss, but his real worth is holding up everything
inside and allowing everyone else to work. While he's good at getting
into the backfield, he's becoming a bigger star against the run.
Working at one end will be Bobby Greenwood, a 6-5, 267-pounder
who spent plenty of time inside as a nose guard and a tackle, and now
will be used on the outside in the 3-4. He was a spot starter throughout
last year making 20 tackles with a sack and 4.5 tackles for loss, and
now he has to be more consistent. He has the speed and quickness to do
On the other side will be 6-4, 286-pound junior Brandon Deaderick,
the equivalent of an extra tackle at end. A good prospect when he came
onto the scene, he came up with a nice year making 22 tackles with two
sacks and three tackles for loss. He's not a top pass rusher, but he's
Projected Top Reserves: One of the new stars
coming out of spring ball is 6-1, 300-pound sophomore Josh Chapman,
one of the team's biggest linemen and a major-league prospect. He saw a
little time in three games last season making just one tackle, but he'll
be a regular in the rotation and should allow the defense to go to a 4-3
on occasion as he plays tackle next to Washington.
6-2, 317-pound sophomore Alfred McCullough will technically be
called an end, but he's a tackle. One of the most active players on the
line at the end of spring ball, he's an active pass rusher with the size
and bulk to make plenty of plays against the run. He'll rotate in and
out of spots inside and out.
6-3, 263-pound sophomore Nick Gentry was a good recruit who saw a
little bit of time in one game last year. An active pass rushing
prospect with the strength to hold up against the run like a tackle,
he'll start out working behind Deadrick.
The team's top recruit for the line is 6-5, 380-pound JUCO transfer
Terrence Cody, a big, BIG body who can actually move a little bit
despite his enormous size. He made a few plays on the line at Gulf Coast
CC, but his job will be to sit in the middle of the line and not budge.
Watch Out For ... plenty of switching around
between the 3-4 and the 4-3. With so many question marks at linebacker
and with tackle a potential strength, the defensive coaches will likely
want four linemen on the field more often than not.
Strength: Run stuffing. The ends are like
smallish tackles, and while Washington isn't all that big, there's bulk
in McCullough and Cody to step in when teams try to go smashmouth. There
might not be any certain all-stars, but running inside on this group
won't be easy.
Weakness: A pure pass rusher. Wallace Gilberry came up
with 10 of the team's 24 sacks, and he's gone. Nick Saban teams always
generate pressure, but this one doesn't have the one sure-thing end
who'll make quarterbacks worry.
Outlook: Last year the line had to move to a 3-4
out of need, but this year it might have to be a 4-3 on talent and
potential. If nothing else, there will be a good rotation of mid-sized
run stuffers, and with some big bulk waiting in the wings to clog things
up on the inside. A pass rusher needs to emerge and there must be more
pressure generated from all three spots, but overall this will be a
solid, but unspectacular line.
Projected Starters: There are several big issues
in the linebacking corps, but one sure thing is 6-4, 255-pound sophomore
Rolando McClain at one of the inside spots. All he did was step
in as a true freshman and finish fourth on the team with 75 tackles, a
sack, five tackles for loss and two interceptions as he established
himself as one of the SEC's brightest new defensive stars. Very tough,
very fast, and a huge hitter, he lived up to the prep hype and now is
poised and ready to be an All-American.
Playing a hybrid of linebacker and defensive end in the Jack position
will be Brandon Fanney, a 6-4, 241-pound junior who made seven
tackles and two quarterback hurries in a limited role. More of a
defensive end by trade, he'll need to grow into a pass rusher and a
Working on the strong side in place of Ezekial Knight will be 6-4,
214-pound sophomore Chavis Williams, a special teamer so far who
made two tackles in his true freshman season. While he'll be asked to
hold up against the run, he'll use his speed to get into the backfield
from the outside. He was a pass rushing terror as a high school
defensive end and was a good tight end.
Taking over on the weakside will be 6-4, 223-pound junior Cory Reamer,
a safety who could play either outside linebacker spot if needed. A
special teamer last year, he has excellent athleticism and the potential
to become a good hitter with his size, but he hasn't been able to stay
Projected Top Reserves: It's been an interesting
off-season. Projected starting linebacker Prince Hall made 58
tackles last season as the starter in five games, but he was suspended
indefinitely for a violation of team rules. He'll be back after a suspension, but he'll be missed early on. Gone is Jimmy Johns, a decent-looking reserve who got
nailed for allegedly selling cocaine. The third big blow was the loss of
Ezekial Knight, the starter on the strongside who made 64 tackles
with three sacks and 11 tackles for loss, but sadly, he's done with
football after having issues with a heart condition.
Almost certain to step in right away and play is star recruit
Jerrell Harris, a 6-3, 215-pound guided missile who was
considered by almost everyone as one of the top five linebacker
prospects in the nations. A tremendous tackler who made 275
stops over the last two years, he'll be a difference maker
sooner than later on the outside.
Also coming in from the recruiting class are Don'ta Hightower
and Courtney Upshaw. The 6-4, 250-pound Hightower is a
pure inside defender who made 168 tackles, and ran for 875 yards
and 19 touchdowns, on his way to being named Tennessee's Mr.
Football. The 6-2, 230-pound Upshaw was a star high school end
but will likely move to linebacker on a full-time basis. He's
too athletic to not be a star at one of the outside spots.
Sophomore Charlie Higgenbotham is mostly a special
teamer, but he's also one of the team's most productive
returning reserves making 12 tackles in ten games. Only 6-1 and
211 pounds, he's a quick player on the inside behind McClain.
6-2, 225-pound junior Eryk Anders has seen a little bit
of time over the last few seasons, but he's mostly a special
teamer. The former star high school defensive tackle and running
back has made just eight career tackles in 18 games, but he'll
start out working behind Williams on the strongside where he'll
need to play a bigger role until the freshmen are ready.
Watch Out For ... the freshmen. McClain is a
no-doubter of a talent, but in a big hurry there could be major
changes. Bama might have the SEC's most talented linebacking
corps ... in 2010. The faster the new guys can shine, the
Strength: Speed. It's a Saban defense, so there
will be plenty of speed and athleticism to go around among the
linebackers. While there are some beefed up safeties, there are
also some tremendously quick undersized high school defensive
Weakness: Veterans. This was an issue going into last
year and things turned out fine, but with all the issues off the
field, experience is really an issue now.
Outlook: This would've been a killer corps had
Hall, Knight and Johns been part of the mix, and while Hall
still could be back on the field, it's going to take a big year
from Harris, along with a few other fellow true freshmen, to
make the corps a strength. This isn't going to be a big-time
problem area, players like Fanney and Williams have nice
potential, but it'll definitely be a question mark.
Projected Starters: Senior Rashad Johnson
didn't exactly come from out of nowhere, he had a reputation for
being a big-time hitter after making 33 tackles as a reserve.
And then the former running back went ballistic making a
team-leading 94 tackles with 5.5 tackles for loss, six
interceptions and eight broken up passes. The big question mark
was whether or not he could make big plays when the ball was in
the air, and the 6-0, 187-pound All-America-caliber free safety
The one new face in the mix is at strong safety where junior
Justin Woodall will get the first look, but will be pushed
hard for the job. The 6-2, 224-pounder is built more like a
smallish SEC linebacker, and he's fast enough to be used at free
safety if needed. He's also good enough at baseball to get the
New York Mets interested, but he's a football player. Mostly a
special teamer so far, he made six tackles as a freshman and
didn't see much time last year.
5-9, 193-pound junior Javier Arenas is the team's star
return man, and he's also a solid defender making 20 tackles
with two tackles for loss in a start and backup duty here and
there. One of the team's quickest players, he'll have to use his
athleticism, along with his good size, to do more when the ball
is in the air. He only has one career broken up pass.
The No. 1 corner will be Kareem Jackson, a 5-11,
185-pound athlete who was a good recruit and a major factor as a
true freshman making 66 tackles with three interceptions, six
broken up passes and four tackles for loss. An excellent open
field tackler, he needs to be just a little more consistent in
pass coverage, which will come in time, to grow into a
Projected Top Reserves: Woodall might have the
starting strong safety job going into the fall, but true
freshman Mark Barron might take it over. The 6-2,
215-pound super-recruit has phenomenal athleticism and the type
of ability that'll make him too hard to keep on the sidelines.
Most likely working as a nickel back early on will be true
freshman Alonzo Lawrence, an elite corner prospect with
6-1, 190-pound size and good ball-hawking and kick returning
potential. While he'll come in pushing for a starting corner
job, he might be used sparingly early on before taking over a
starting spot next year.
Former running back Ali Sharrif turned in a good year as
a backup making 21 tackles with a tackle for loss. He's one of
the team's most experienced backup defensive backs, but he'll
have to make some big plays early on to find a role outside of
the special teams. The 5-9, 197-pounder is one of the team's
Watch Out For ... strong safety to be up in the
air. It's too important a position to not be set in stone, and
while Johnson might seem like a natural to move over and see a
little time, it'll be a newcomer to the spot that'll need to
Strength: Johnson. There's experience returning,
but there needs to be a steadying force to work around. That's
Johnson, who hits everything and has the range to help out the
Weakness: Teams that can throw the ball. The overall
numbers looked nice, and the secondary did a terrific job of
picking off passes, but it helped to play a slew of
passing-challenged teams. LSU threw a ton and Colorado went
nuts, but there were several games against weak passing games.
This crew will have to prove it from day one against Clemson,
but on the plus side, there aren't any Texas Techs on the slate.
Outlook: The numbers will be better than the
secondary. Even with some issues at strong safety and with the
corners merely above average, there will be plenty of picks and
plenty of big stops. Johnson is a great one and there's plenty
of speed to go around, but the key will be run support. How much
will the DBs have to help out the linebackers?
Projected Starters: Junior Leigh Tiffin
stepped in and stepped up nailing a whopping 25 of 34 field goal
attempts showing excellent range. Now he'll have to be consistent after
missing four kicks inside 40 yards. However, with a big leg, he nailed
two from 50+ and was a solid 10 of 15 from beyond 40.
Junior punter P.J. Fitzgerald has to be better. He has been great
in placements putting 39 kicks inside the 20 over the past two years,
but he hasn't aired it out and followed up a 38.2-yard-per-kick average
with a 38.7-yard average. On the plus side, the punt returns were kept
to a minimum.
Junior CB Javier Arenas is one of the nation's best all-around
return men averaging 15.4 yards per punt return and 24.3 yards per
kickoff return. He's a quick weapon who's a threat for a touchdown every
time he has the ball in his hands.
Watch Out For ... Tiffin to be better. With age
comes consistency, and he has been through enough to be more consistent
and more reliable. He has the leg, and now he'll do more with it.
Strength: Arenas. The offense didn't always get
things in gear last season, but Arenas did all he could as a punt
returner. Now teams will do everything possible to stay away from him.
Weakness: Fitzgerald's length. The coaching staff has
kept things conservative in the punting game, but once in a while it
would be nice if the junior could air it out.
Outlook: The special teams are going to be good as
long as Arenas does what he did last year. Tiffin is a bomber, while
Fitzgerald is just above-average enough to be reliable on placements.
The coverage teams were fantastic, and should be again.