11 Tide Players For Iron Man Game

For over 45 years, college football has allowed unlimited substitution, so no one ever gives a thought to a team not having a defense and an offense; and, for that matter, special teams. But for much of its history, college football players had to go both ways, so-called Iron Man Football.

There were variations of substitution patterns headed towards two-platoon football, but not until following the 1964 season was unlimited substitution permitted.

In the early 1970s I was in Alabama's sports information office. Attending practice every day was part of my job. I spent time on the practice field close to Sang Lyda, the assistant trainer, who knew about as much about football as any coach. One day just before the season started, he asked me to pick 11 players on that Bama squad to play one platoon football. We weren't so far removed from 1964 that we didn't remember those days.

Lyda also picked a team, and for many years that was a little tradition. Ordinarily we had a number of the same players, but from time-to-time one of us would have a surprise pick.

It's probably a little more difficult to make the choice today. Most high schools also play two-platoon, meaning players are either offensive players or defensive players. In the 1970s, there were still quite a few who had played both offense and defense in high school, which helped us in our selections.

It's time for me to make my selections for an 11-man team for the 2011 season.

For purposes of selection, this imaginary team will play the base 3-4 defense (two defensive ends, a nose tackle, and four linebackers) employed by Coach Nick Saban's team, and a defense with two wide receivers, a tailback, and an H-back or fullback.

The first order of business is selecting a quarterback who can also play defense. Phillip Sims looks like he might be able to play defense, but there is no doubt that Blake Sims has the athletic ability to play cornerback, so Blake Sims is quarterback-cornerback.

I wasn't going to leave off the Tide's most likely Heisman Trophy candidate. Trent Richardson may or may not have played defense sometime in his past, but there's no doubt the super-strong tailback could knock down offensive players at least as easily as he puts potential tacklers on the ground. Richardson is tailback and strong safety.

Just in case Richardson isn't as good a tackler as I imagine, we'll put the man who is likely the nation's best safety, Mark Barron, back there with him. Barron did play offense in high school and he'll be a wide receiver.

Dre Kirkpatrick is probably Alabama's best cornerback. There's no reason to think he wouldn't be a fine wide receiver, so he takes those two positions.

The final offensive skill position will be filled by Dont'a Hightower. Best known as a Butkus nominee as the nation's best linebacker, Hightower was a fine high school runner, picking up 875 yards and 19 touchdowns his senior year. Although he's an inside linebacker for Saban, he'll be an outside linebacker on our 11-man team.

It was awfully difficult to leave Michael Williams off the team. He was a top prospect as a defensive end and now is one of the nation's best tight ends. But there has to be a place for Courtney Upshaw on the one-platoon team. Upshaw will be the other outside linebacker (just as he is for the real Bama). On offense, Upshaw will be the tight end.

There are five positions left – center, two guards, and two tackles on offense and two inside linebackers, two ends, and a nose tackle on defense.

Barrett Jones has proved that he can play anywhere along the offensive line and we think he's athletic enough to play inside linebacker on defense. On offense he'll be at center, a position he worked for the first time in practice this fall camp.

Anthony Steen was highly regarded both as an offensive lineman and defensive lineman when he was being recruited. We'll put him at his normal guard position on offense and at inside linebacker on defense.

Jesse Williams was a bit under the radar through fall camp, but the Australian emerged on Depth Chart Day as number one at defensive end. At 6-4, 319 and very strong, we'll also put him on the offensive line at guard.

Alfred McCullough has made this team before. The back-up offensive lineman can play both guard and tackle, but he'll be at tackle on this team on offense. On defense, he'll be at end, where he won the Dwight Stephenson Most Outstanding Lineman Award in the 2008 A-Day Game before switching to offense.

Also at offensive tackle will be D.J. Fluker. Fluker was an outstanding defensive lineman in high school and was recruited as a nose tackle by Alabama before he made the switch to offense as a prep senior.

In the 1970s I always added Paul Bryant to my team as head coach. In 2011 I'd have Nick Saban.

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