Tide Must Replace Top 2 Nose Tackles

Alabama lost a lot of starters from the 2011 national championship team. But at most of those positions where the starter was lost, there is a quality back-up man (or two or three) moving up. The Tide lost three wide receivers, three linebackers, three cornerbacks, an offensive lineman, a safety, a tailback, and an H-back. But at nose tackle, Bama lost both the starter and the back-up.

For the past couple of years, Josh Chapman has been Alabama's nose tackle on likely run downs, particularly first and second downs. On likely passing downs, it was not unusual to see Nick Gentry, a smaller, more agile nose tackle, into the game. Now both have completed their eligibility.

As has often been pointed out, Alabama calls itself a 3-4 defense. It is actually in that alignment far less than half its defensive plays. More often, it is a Nickel with three defensive linemen and three linebackers and five defensive backs. Sometimes it is a Dime with three defensive linemen and two linebackers with six defensive backs. And sometimes a fourth defensive lineman goes in for a linebacker for a true 4-3.

Although Alabama doesn't have a lot of depth at nose tackle, the Crimson Tide does have a number of defensive linemen returning.

Alabama will have 15 days of practice, including three scrimmage days, in March and April. The third and final scrimmage will be the public A-Day Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Practice is scheduled to begin Friday, the day before the start of spring break. The second practice will be the day after spring break, Monday, March 19. The A-Day Game will begin at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday, April 14, and will be televised by CSS.

Last year Jesse Williams, the 6-4, 319-pound Australian who transferred from junior college, was usually a starting defensive end, but it is not unrealistic to project him as a possible nose tackle candidate. He played as a tackle in situations last fall. Williams was in on 24 tackles last year, including four for lost yardage, and was in on one sack. He also broke up one pass and had three quarterback pressures.

Last fall Gentry said something that sticks in memory. Speaking to reporters, he said, "You guys have been looking for the next Cody. It's Brandon Ivory." Cody, of course, is the former Bama All-America nose tackle, Terrence Cody. Chapman said that he had been grooming Ivory as his replacement. Ivory is a 6-4, 308-pound sophomore who played in four games and was in on five tackles last season.

There is one early enrollee in the 2012 signing class who surprised some by announcing that he would be playing at nose tackle. Alphonse Taylor, a four-star ranked offensive tackle (number 31 in the nation) said that he would be playing on defense. He is 6-6 and 360 pounds, but said on signing day that he planned to lose weight.

This is one in a series looking as Alabama football positions prior to the start of spring football practice.

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