2009 Alabama Preview - Defense
Alabama DT Terrence Cody
Alabama DT Terrence Cody
Posted Jun 16, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Alabama Crimson Tide Defense

Alabama Crimson Tide

Preview 2009
- Defense

- 2009 CFN Alabama Preview | 2009 Bama Offense 
- 2009 Bama Defense | 2009 Bama Depth Chart 
- 2008 Bama Preview | 2007 Bama Preview | 2006 Bama Preview 

What you need to know: Forgetting for a moment how the defense didn't wake up against Utah until it was too late, 2008 was a special season against the run and this season the defensive front should be even better. Terrance Cody should be a starting anchor in the NFL right now, while linebackers Rolando McClain and Dont'a Hightower will soon be there. The front three in the 3-4 is huge with tackle-sized players at each spot, and that includes the backups, while the fantastic linebacking corps, a major strength after being a concern going into last year, will clean everything up. The secondary is functional and will put up nice overall stats, but the better passing teams should be able to move the ball considering the front seven doesn't generate much pressure.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Rolando McClain, 95
Sacks: Brandon Deaderick, 4
Interceptions: Justin Woodall, 4

Star of the defense: Senior DT Terrence Cody
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DE Lorenzo Washington
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore S Robby Green
Best pro prospect: Cody
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Cody, 2) LB Rolando McClain, 3) LB Dont'a Hightower
Strength of the defense: Run Defense, Young Prospects
Weakness of the defense: Pass Rush, Good Passing Teams

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: Senior Terrence Cody should be in the NFL right now, and he could be a top 20 pick next year if he gets in better shape. "Mount Cody" is on his way getting down from 380 pounds to around 365 and he should be a sure-thing All-America performer if he can stay healthy. Last year's superstar JUCO transfer is a rock of a tackle and is a true anchor on the nose, finishing his first year with 34 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss. It's not about stats for Cody; it's about being impossible to run around him. He's the main reason the run defense is so strong.

Able to work on either the nose or on the end will be Lorenzo Washington, who made 13 tackles as a key reserve and spot starter. At 6-5 and 275 pounds, he's a quick tackle and a strong end in the 3-4, but he's not a pass rusher generating just one sack and 2.5 tackles for loss. His job will be to hold up against the run from a spot on the end.

Working at the other end will once again be Brandon Deaderick, a 6-4, 287-pound force who came up with 36 tackles, four sacks, and 5.5 tackles for loss. Surprisingly quick for his size, he's a big, tough pass rusher with tremendous strength to matchup well with most tackles. He'd be a good tackle in a 4-3, but he's perfect for the Bama system and will be counted on to be the team's steadiest end. It has taken three years, but now he might finally grow into a star.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Josh Chapman is one of the team's biggest linemen at 6-1 and 305 pounds and able to step in behind Cody on the nose and as a second tackle if the D goes into a 4-3. He's ridiculously strong with enough experience to step in and produce whenever needed after making 16 tackles and four tackles for loss.

6-3, 299-pound junior Luther Davis is an end working behind Deaderick after making 12 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss. A top recruit a few years ago, he has yet to come close to live up to his hype and potential, but he's been caught up a bit in the depth chart traffic. He has the ability be a run stopper in the rotation, but he's not a pass rusher.

Marcell Dareus is a 6-3, 280-pound emerging talent on the end coming off a get-the-feet-wet true freshman season making four tackles. Extremely quick for his size, he should eventually become a pass rusher with more work. He's not a speed rusher by any means, but he has a nice combination of skills working behind Washington.

Watch Out For ... Dareus. Small for this line, he has a bit more quickness than the rest of the big tackles spread across the front. He's not going to be a starter, but he could be the type of situation pass rusher who can make a big play happen here and there.
: Size and run stuffing ability. Bama has three tackles playing across the front and no one will be able to consistently run on this group. Not only are the starters big, but there are big bodies all across the depth chart with plenty of size to be infused to keep everyone fresh.
: Pass rushers. There isn't anyone who can consistently get to the quarterback, meaning the outside linebackers have to get into the backfield or else quarterbacks will get plenty of free time to work.
Outlook: The 3-4 worked and it should be a brick wall against the run again. There won't be much in the way of pressure generated, but holding up against anyone with a ground game won't be a problem. This is a big, physical line that should beat up most offensive fronts. Outside of Cody, this won't be a great group of talents, but it'll be tremendously effective.
Rating: 8


Projected Starters: A steadying force in the linebacking corps in the beginning of last year, 6-4, 249-pound junior Rolondo McClain turned out to be a special all-star leading the team with 95 tackles with three sacks and 12 tackles for loss in the middle. Very tough, very fast, and one of the team's surest tacklers, he has started to live up to his immense prep hype and now should be on the short list all All-America linebackers. Not only is he tough against the run, and with great range, but he's solid when the ball is in the air with eight broken up passes.

Dont'a Hightower was a superstar recruit last year and he turned out to live up to all the hype. At 6-4 and 250 pounds he has decent size, and he was great at getting all over the field making 64 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss. A tremendous hitter who always seemed to come up with the key stop, he should be an all-star for the next few years working on the weakside. Now he needs to start doing more in pass coverage and use his speed to get into the backfield on a more regular basis.

Senior Cory Reamer is a former safety who works at the strongside position, doing a little of everything on the outside. With excellent range, he can play either outside position and has grown into a good defender after starting out his career as a star special teamer. At 6-4 and 218 pounds he's not huge, but he's a good tackler with 35 stops last year with a sack and six tackles for loss.

Senior Brandon Fanney turned into a major playmaker as the team's third leading tackler at the Jack position making 66 tackles with a sack and nine tackles for loss. At 6-4 and 257 pounds, he has good size and the burst to be a more dangerous pass rusher. Now he has to get back into everyone's good graces after being suspended this offseason. 

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Courtney Upshaw had a nice true freshman season making 22 tackles as a special teams star and a strong backup linebacker. Good at the Jack position, he'll combine with Eryk Anders and Brandon Fanney in the rotation, but at 6-2 and 230 pounds he's big enough to play anywhere in the corps. A monster hitter, he'll make several highlight pops.

6-2, 227-pound Eryk Anders was mostly been a special teamer, but he was a key reserve last season at the Jack position and has the potential to be a dangerous pass rusher. The veteran made 24 tackles with 2.5 sacks with 4.5 tackles for loss with six quarterback hurries, and now he'll be turned loose into the backfield using his quickness and his experience to be a reliable defender.

6-3, 215-pound sophomore Jerrell Harris was a star recruit last year, considered to be one of the top five linebacker prospects in the nation, and he saw a little time in his true freshman season making three tackles on special teams. While he's built more like a safety, he's a guided missile of a hitter who made 275 tackles in his final two years of high school. Now he'll work behind Reamer on the strongside.

Watch Out For ... Hightower to take another step forward and become the star to build around for the next few years. This is still going to be McClain's linebacking corps, but Hightower has the upside and ability to be considered a sure-thing next-level prospect after this year.
: Tacklers. This is a good-sized corps with athleticism and big hitting ability. McClain, Hightower and Fanney don't miss stops, while Reamer is tough enough to hold his own against any running game.
Pass defense. This group wasn't asked to do too much against the pass, but that doesn't mean it can't start to do more. It's the job of the foursome to hold up against the run and occasionally get into the backfield, but if Hightower and Reamer can be stronger against the pass, the corps will be unbelievable.
Outlook: There was a big concern here going into last year with off-the-field issues, suspensions, and graduations, but it turned out to be great. Now the star freshmen brought aboard last year appear to be ready to take on bigger roles, while McClain is a special talent to work around. This group is deep, big, and extremely talented.
Rating: 9

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters: It's asking too much of anyone to step in and replace the production and the huge plays from Rashad Johnson at safety. Sophomore Robby Green, however, has looked good enough to come close. The 6-0, 175-pound former cornerback saw time as a true freshman in nickel packages and on special teams making six tackles. He's going to make some mistakes here and there, but he's smart, has great range, and he should be one of the team's leaders in interceptions.

Returning at the other safety spot will be Justin Woodall after making 47 tackles with four interceptions at strong safety. Great against the run, the 6-2, 220-pound senior is built more like a small linebacker and has the speed to be all over the field against the pass. While he's a good enough baseball player to get a look from the New York Mets, he's a football player who should shine in his senior year now that he knows what he's doing.

Senior Javier Arenas is a great cornerback, making 63 tackles with two sacks and an interception, but he's a better return man who has a future at the next level as both a kick and punt returner. As a corner, he's a peerless tackler who plays bigger than his 5-9, 198-pound size with phenomenal quickness. He could stand to make more big plays against the pass, but he won't get pushed around by the bigger receivers and he has few problems staying with the speedy ones. He can be left on an island without a problem.

Junior Kareem Jackson is back at the other corner spot with a ton of experience and the
ability to lock down on any receiver. At 5-11 and 192 pounds he has decent size to go along with good speed. An excellent tackler, he made 44 stops last year and was second on the team with ten broken up passes. While he's not an all-star and he's not going to get the publicity of Arenas, he's a sound defender who won't get tested all that often.

Projected Top Reserves: It's not a stretch to call Dre Kirkpatrick the team's best defensive back before he sets foot on the field. The superstar recruit is 6-3, 185-pounds, and isn't afraid to provide a big pop on his tackles. He's also fast ... next-level, combine-star fast. While he has the size to play either safety spot, he's most likely going to start out in nickel and dime packages before moving to corner.

Sophomore Mark Barron will be in the hunt to take over Rashad Johnson's vacated safety spot, but he'll more likely end up working behind Woodall. A good special teamer, Barron got a little time in the secondary finishing with 18 tackles on the year. At 6-2 and 215 pounds he has good size and the potential to grow into an all-star over the next few seasons.

Senior Marquis Johnson was terrific on pure passing downs stepping in as a fifth defensive back finishing with 49 tackles with two interceptions and five broken up passes. He'll be the team's third corner in the rotation working behind Jackson, but he'll be on the field enough to come up with another productive season. He has bulked up to get to 5-11 and 192 pounds but hasn't lost any quickness.

Former running back Ali Sharrief will be in the safety rotation after combing up with good year making 31 tackles with five broken up passes. The 5-9, 205-pound senior is able to get into the backfield and shines in dime packages where he can use his speed and range in the open. He's one of the team's fastest players.

Watch Out For ... Kirkpatrick. While he's making sure he's ready to go in the classroom with some offseason work, he should be ready to go on the field this fall. He's going to be fantastic from the start and the coaching staff will use him in a variety of ways if he doesn't take over a starting corner job.
: Experience and options. Johnson might be gone, but the Tide is loaded with veterans and enough good reserves to form a good rotation. Finding the right combination of players shouldn't be a problem for nickel and dime packages.
Teams that can throw the ball. This has been the issues for the last few years. The numbers look great, but it's not like the SEC West was the Big 12 South when it came to pitching it around. Matthew Stafford and Georgia threw well in the second half comeback mode on the secondary, while Brian Johnson and Utah picked the Tide secondary clean. The DBs had the Florida receivers covered, but Tim Tebow made plays. This is a good secondary, but it could be exposed from time to time.
Outlook: For the second year in a row, the numbers will be better than the secondary. Kirkpatrick is a phenomenal talent, but he's a true freshman. Overall, though, this is a slightly-better-than-serviceable collection of defensive backs that will miss Johnson's big play ability. However, if Kirkpatrick is the real deal from day one, and if Green is as good as he was this offseason, the secondary will have some great building blocks to work around for the next few years.
Rating: 7.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Senior Leigh Tiffin followed up a nice sophomore season by hitting 20-of-29 field goals including two of his three attempts from beyond 50 yards. He has missed a few too many makeable kicks over the last two years, and was inconsistent from beyond 40 yards, but he's good enough to be used on any attempt 55 yards and in.

The punting game was more than fine with senior P.J. Fitzgerald improving after struggling two years ago. After averaging 38.2 yards per kick in 2007, he averaged 41.1 yards per try putting 15 inside the 20 and forcing 16 fair catches. He's not an elite kicker, but he's good enough to not be a concern.

CB Javier Arenas is one of the nation's elite all-around kick returners. He averaged an impressive 15.9 yards per try on punt returns, with three touchdowns, and averaged 22.9 yards per kickoff return. Everyone will do whatever possible to stay away from him.

Watch Out For ... Arenas to have a hard time getting his hands on the ball for punt returns. SEC coaches aren't dumb. They'll take their hits by punting out of bounds more often than not rather than give Arenas many chances to get his hands on the ball as a punt returner.
: Arenas. He's a weapon who can score whenever he has the ball. If nothing else, he'll help the field position battle in a big way.
Kickoff returns. Arenas is fantastic, but he was bottled up, for the most part, last year averaging "only" 22.9 yards per try. No one else stepped up when he didn't get the ball as Bama averaged 19.6 yards per return.
Outlook: The special teams are solid with all the key parts coming back. The kickers need to be more consistent, but they're good and they're experienced, while Arenas is going to be Arenas.
Rating: 8