Nose Tackle Often Mr. Anonymous

Alabama's defense of record is the 3-4, meaning three down linemen, two ends and a nose tackle. It's not always that way. Sometimes there are three ends, one playing an inside spot. Sometimes there are two tackles. Indeed, there are all manner of configurations that spring from the mind of Coach Nick Saban.

In many respects, the nose tackle is Mr. Anonymous. A nose tackle has tough duty, almost always having to take on the block of both the center and a guard, leaving the tackle statistics to the men behind him and on the edges. True, former Alabama All-America Terrence Cody was well-known, but Cody was unique in physique and personality.

Cody's replacement last year was Josh Chapman. Though four inches and 40 pounds (at least) lighter than Cody, Chapman, 6-1 and 310, is one of the strongest players in Crimson Tide history. Last spring he and linebacker Dont'a Hightower shared the Lee Roy Jordan Headhunter Award, as voted by Bama coaches.

Chapman, an upcoming senior, started 12 games last year and played in all 13 in the Tide's 10-3 season. He was in on 31 tackles, including being in on four tackles for loss and also having a sack. He has played in 42 total games.

Chapman is not the only senior in the mix at nose tackle. More and more as the 2010 season went along, Nick Gentry added playing time. Gentry, 6-1, 282 pounds, has great quickness and is particularly effective as a pass rusher from the inside. Saban has said since the end of last season that putting pressure on the quarterback is a priority for this year's defense. Last year Gentry had a sack among his 18 tackles and also had two quarterback pressures.

It's too early to look ahead to 2012 (although one can rest assured Saban and his staff have planned at least that far), but with two seniors getting playing time, nose tackle could be a question mark after this season.

Chapman thinks the next starter will be Brandon Ivory, a 6-4, 308-pound redshirt freshman.

There is another name to consider. The most interesting signee for Alabama in the 2011 class was Australian native Jesse Williams, who came to Bama from Arizona Western College. The junior college transfer is 6-3, 340 and has impressed his teammates with his strength and speed. He work at both end and tackle in the spring, and Saban has said he has the ability to play either.

There are a handful of defensive linemen who will be reporting as freshmen this year, and it's possible that one or more of them could work into the rotation in 2010. They include:

LaMichael Fanning (6-7, 275), Wilson Love (6-3, 275), Jeoffrey Pagan (6-4, 272), and D.J. Pettway (6-2, 272).

This is one in a series looking at Alabama football positions for 2011.

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