But What About? Tide Fans May Ask

Alabama has had very good defensive teams under Coach Nick Saban, in great part because Saban and his staff recruit great players. It is no surprise that Bama is well-represented on watch lists for outstanding player awards.

The Bednarik Award goes to the nation's top defensive player, and five Alabama players are on the initial watch list for the honor for 2011.

Those to be expected made the list.

Alabama put both safeties and one cornerback on the watch list. Strong safety Mark Barron received All-America recognition following his first year as a starter, when he led the Southeastern Conference in interceptions in helping Bama to the 2009 national championship.

Last year as a sophomore starter, Robert Lester led the SEC in interceptions and received All-America recognition.

Crimson Tide cornerbacks are coached by Nick Saban. A little over a year ago there was a first when THREE Alabama cornerbacks – Kareen Jackson, Javier Arenas, and Marquis Johnson – were taken in the NFL draft. This year one cornerback, junior Dre Kirkpatrick, is on the Bednarik watch list.

All-time great Alabama linebacker Lee Roy Jordan is among those who think Bama should be known as ‘Linebacker U.' Two linebackers on the 2011 Crimson Tide are on the watch list.

After making full recovery from a 2009 knee injury, junior inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower is expected to challenge for the role of Bama defensive leader held by 2009 Butkus Award winner Rolando McClain.

Coming off a dominating performance in the 2011 Capital One Bowl which earned him the Most Valuable Player award, senior outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw completes the five on the Bednarik watch list.

So is anyone being left off?

Whispers from the Crimson Tide camp say the best defensive back in spring drills was upcoming senior cornerback Dequan Menzie, now completely recovered from an Achilles injury and a man who moved ahead of 2010 starting cornerback Dee Milliner.

A year or so ago when discussing the recovery of Hightower, Saban said that another player injured early in 2009 was just as big a loss. He was referring to defensive end Damion Square, who came out of spring as the top man on the defensive front.

Although Alabama has had dozens of All-America players on defense and had players like McClain who have won national awards, the Crimson Tide has never had the Bednarik Award winner. The award, presented by the Maxwell Football Club in Philadelphia, was begun in 1995.

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