Defensive players stepping up

With the exception of a few that are injured or sick, the returning starters on defense have all enjoyed a solid spring and have held onto their starting jobs. <br><br>But several new faces on the defensive side of the football have really helped themselves this spring, working their way up to the top of the depth chart.

(Above Left) Redshirt freshman Jeremy Clark has established himself as a solid second string at defensive tackle for the Tide. With a minimum of four tackles needed to fill out a playing rotation, Clark must adjust quickly to big-time college football.

Representing one of only a few position changes this spring, sophomore Mark Anderson (#47) has been impressive since moving from outside linebacker to defensive end. Though hopefully he'll be able to adjust to the move gradually next fall, with injuries and illness taking their toll on Bama's starting defensive ends Anderson could be as high as second string right now. Head Coach Mike Price says they'll utilize Anderson as a speed rusher off the end.

Compared to some other new faces Roman Harper (#41) has received relatively little publicity this spring, but the sophomore may have done more to help himself this past month than any other Tide player. Last season Harper was the back-up free safety, but the Prattville native started off spring drills first string at strong safety and hasn't looked back, putting a stranglehold on the position. With a few more pounds of muscle, Harper could be very good.

Like Clark, redshirt freshman Kyle Tatum (#85) won't have the luxury of being worked slowly into the playing rotation at defensive tackle next fall. Already second string, Tatum will need a solid summer in the weight room to help ensure he'll be effective next season.

With Charlie Peprah ensconced at one cornerback slot, a battle has raged all spring for No. 1 on the opposite side. Several talented athletes are competing for the job, but junior Anthony Madison (#9) has so far held onto the position. Admittedly short for the position, Madison brings power, speed and impressive tenacity to the playing field. The Associated Press photo shows Madison playing last year versus Georgia.

There is still a lot of polishing to be done on Juwan Garth's game, but from a pure athleticism point of view no one player has been more impressive this spring. Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines described Garth as a "young colt on the practice field, all arms and legs." Garth's very good speed and incredible jumping ability have him currently working as the main back-up to Brooks Daniels at weakside linebacker.

As a walk-on athlete--paying his own way to school for the chance to get his head bashed in at practice on a daily basis, J.P. Adams (#79) deserves as much recognition as anyone this spring. A redshirt freshman, Adams is battling with Taylor Britt for the fifth spot in the playing rotation at defensive tackle--and more than holding his own in the competition.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Obviously there are several other defensive players that have helped themselves this spring. But in this photo report we're focusing on those that have climbed to either first- or second-string, or could likely end up in the playing rotation at their position.

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