Saban Says New Men Can Help Defense

Just because Alabama returns 10 men who were considered starters on defense a year ago doesn't mean that the only competition for a starting job in 2011 is at the defensive end spot left vacant by Marcell Dareus leaving following his junior season for the NFL.

It was no surprise that Alabama Coach Nick Saban had a long list of offensive positions to discuss in consideration of competition. Many of the top stars from the past two years – quarterback Greg McElroy, tailback Mark Ingram, wide receiver Julio Jones, left tackle James Carpenter, H-Back Preston Dial -- have departed.

But when Saban was asked about competition for positions, and finished his discussion of the offense, he said, "Same thing on defense. We've got some young guys that can make a contribution."

Alabama has begun fall camp. The Crimson Tide was to have its second workout of the 29 allotted on Saturday with the entire reporting squad working together. The squad was split for initial fall camp practice on Friday with most of the newcomers working in the evening group.

Bama will have Fan Day Sunday at Bryant-Denny Stadium with an open practice beginning at 2:30 p.m. CDT and a brief autograph period with coaches and players to follow the practice, which is scheduled for two hours.

Alabama opens the season September 3 against Kent State in Tuscaloosa.

Saban said, "I think there's some young guys that can help us on defense. Trey DePriest (freshman linebacker) had a really good spring. Vinnie (safety Vinnie Sunseri) had a really good spring."

Most of the other freshmen have been in Tuscaloosa this summer working out, but without coaches. Saban said veteran Tide players have been im pressed with those freshmen. "We'll have to see how those guys develop," he said.

Quinton Dial, a junior college transfer who went through spring practice, seemed to be the man to replace Dareus when the A-Day Game was played. Saban said, "Quinton Dial had a really good spring and did a nice job. I think he's athletic and he's getting more and more confident. I think he has a much better ability to sustain now. He's improved his conditioning. He's lost some weight that was probably not good weight. I think he's much more efficient."

He said that another junior college defensive lineman who hasn't had an opportunity to play, Jesse Williams, seems to have improved since the spring.

"There was more confidence on Jesse's part in terms of knowing what to do and how to do it," Saban said. "Just playing faster and looking a little more instinctive and feeling at home. I'm hopeful that he'll make a strong improvement and gain that confidence because he certainly has the ability to help us."

The Tide coach noted that end "Damion Square hasn't played a lot in the past. Ed Stinson's another guy that has an opportunity. There's a lot of opportunity there for some guys that I would say a couple of those guys are going to come to the forefront.

"We probably have more depth, but maybe not the experience that we've had, or the dominant player that we've had. But there are some guys there that could develop into that kind of player as well. That's certainly what we're hoping for.

" Maybe even some of the freshmen that we recruited will be able to make a contribution."

Another veteran defensive end, Alex Watkins, had spring knee surgery, but is working with the team.

"He's doing well," Saban said. He did all the reps in practice. He's probably at the point now where that's what he needs to do. He needs to practice. He needs to see it, get ready to play. Probably by the end of this camp, we'll know exactly where he is. He looks to me like a guy that's going to be able to make a contribution at some point in time this season and we'll just keep trying to help him develop. But I'm very encouraged by where he is."

Saban added, "I think there's opportunity at special teams galore on this team. Some of the young players that we have that are fast guys, good football players, I thought made a contribution on special teams in the spring and I think they'll continue to do that."

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