A-Day Rewind: Defense, Kicking
Yesterday we looked at the Alabama offense. In part two of the series today we will focus on defense and special teams. To the video:
One defensive guy who stood out was SAM linebacker Jerrell Harris. This is a player who, frankly, has not accomplished a whole lot on the field so far, but it seems the proverbial light has come on, and this time, somebody's home. Harris made a possible touchdown-saving stop on Richardson on the first series. The good news for Harris is that he's virtually locked up a starting spot at the SAM. The bad news? UA spends most of its time in a nickel package, and guess who the odd man out is when the fifth defensive back checks in? You got it. The SAM. Cory Reamer resembles this remark.
Another defender who played great all spring, including the finale, was Dequan Menzie. DQ is now a starting corner, and has pushed Dee Milliner to the nickel spot. Menzie only has one year left at The Capstone, but he is well-known among NFL scouts and looks to become a well-paid fellow come the 2012 NFL Draft. That's if he stays healthy. Menzie is good enough to be All-SEC by season's end. Look for No. 24 to make a lot of big plays this fall. He gave Bama's receivers all they wanted and then some all spring. He also has the ability to shake off stalk blocks by receivers and make critical tackles downfield, as he did on Richardson early on at A-Day.
Some Alabama fans were upset last week when corner Dre Kirkpatrick was named "only" third team All-SEC by the league's coaches. It says here that's about right. Kirkpatrick was beaten on a deep pass early in the spring game by Brandon Gibson, who made an over-the-shoulder grab from A.J. McCarron to set the first offense up just shy of the goal line. Gibson ran a great route and looked the ball in, and McCarron threw it where only his fellow Port City native could catch it. Still, a FIRST team All-SEC guy finds a way to break that ball up. Just saying.
Kudos on the early goal-line stop also go to defensive end Ed Stinson, who stopped Richardson shy of the goal on the previous play. It doesn't appear Stinson plans to give up his starting job to either Quinton Dial or Jesse Williams anytime soon. The same could be said of Damion Square at the other end.
Nose guard Josh Chapman is solid and All-SEC. Nick Gentry is a valued backup. Both looked solid, but not spectacular. That's what a nose guard does.
A couple of other defenders who had breakout springs were Jack linebacker Adrian Hubbard and safety Jarrick Williams. Williams is set to be the sixth or "dime" back when practice starts. He's a ball hawk who enjoys contact. Hubbard looks more like a basketball player, but don't be fooled. He knows how to get to the quarterback, and as good as Courtney Upshaw is, he won't be missed in 2012 as much as you may think as long as Hubbard keeps developing and putting on good weight.
It's hard to put in words how important it is for the 2011 Tide defense that both Dont'a Hightower and Upshaw are finally 100 per cent healthy. Both made plays all over the field all spring, and both will terrorize opponents all fall. At the second inside spot, don't be shocked if C.J. Mosley beats out Nico Johnson. Mosley is the better pass defender, and his run-stopping skills are approaching Johnson's.
True freshman Trey DePriest will also be a factor. He had a fine spring.
As for special teams...
Neither punter -- scholarship holder Jay Williams or returning starter/walk-on Cody Mandel -- shined. That is a job that will be left open likely until the week of the Kent State game. Williams seems to have the bigger leg, while Mandel is a tad more consistent.
Don't look for changes in place-kicking. Jeremy Shelley should continue to be the PAT and short field goal man, with Cade Foster kicking off and handling longer field goals. To his credit, Shelley's kickoffs have improved, should he be needed there.
Bottom line: this is a VERY talented Alabama football team. Its one that, barring injury, should be playing in January, in New Orleans. The question is, which week? -- the Sugar Bowl or the BCS Title Game.
Only time will tell.
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