Less can be more

When asked how good Alabama's defensive tackles can be next season, position coach Buddy Wyatt was blunt in his assessment.

"The key is to make sure we get into the best shape we possibly can," Wyatt said.

In terms of athletic potential Wyatt knows he's working with two of the best tackles around. But conditioning remains a concern.

Getting into the best shape we possibly can will let us play better in the fourth quarter," Wyatt explained. "The better shape we're in will help us eliminate some injuries."

Anthony Bryant and Ahmad Childress proved in 2002 and again this past spring that they're clearly the best D-Tackles on the squad, heading into next season. The two are both big and athletic, potentially prototypes for the position. But the linemates also share the need to lose weight before they can approach their on-field potential.

Both Childress (#95) and Bryant (#97) were carrying too much weight last spring, forcing them to play themselves into shape as spring drills wore along.

"Anthony and Ahmad are dropping weight," Wyatt revealed. "We have goals as they work toward August, and they're reaching their goals."

On the spring roster Bryant was listed at 6-3, 348 pounds. Admittedly he's an exceptional athlete, but Bryant's coaches have told him he needs to be closer to 300 than 350 if he hopes to impress the pro scouts.

A similar dynamic holds true for Childress. His spring numbers were 6-5, 358. His taller frame would allow him to carry a few more pounds than Bryant, but both players have targeted 315 pounds (hopefully lower) as their goal.

Wyatt commented on their progress. "Anthony has dropped 24 pounds already. Ahmad is down to 332 now, so he's dropped 26 pounds. They have made progress in those areas."

Since Bryant first stepped on campus fans have been predicting great things from the Newbern native. An incredible combination of strength and agility, Bryant clearly has the potential to be very good. But conditioning has always been a problem.

The spring before Childress reported to Alabama he was reportedly more than 50 pounds overweight. But the Nashville native surprised everyone by vigorously dieting last summer. By the time he reported last fall Childress looked every bit the athlete, though he clearly had been somewhat weakened by his crash diet.

Bryant is far from being a sloppily conditioned player. In fact he's one of the most gifted natural athletes on the team. But he has yet to get his body in the kind of shape he'll need to be in to achieve his goal of dominating in the SEC.

Wyatt would like nothing better than to coach twin all-stars, but he's been frank in his advice. "Bryant and Childress have to improve if they expect to be good," Wyatt said. "No. 1 they've got to get in the best shape of their lives. Neither of them is there yet.

"Ahmad reported in pretty good shape last fall, but I know they weren't in very good shape this spring."

The graduation of Jarret Johnson, Kenny King and Kindal Moorehead created a leadership void on defense. Both tackles would like to take on more of that role, but first they must take care of business. "You earn respect when other players on your team see you going the extra mile," Wyatt said, "putting in the extra effort during summer workouts."

Every day this summer Childress and Bryant have put in extra work on their conditioning. Under the supervision of Strength Coach Terry Jones Sr., the two move from machine to machine sweating away their excess pounds ounce by ounce.

They've both made good early progress, but Wyatt wants the two friends to see the process through to the end.

"We've identified to both of them," Wyatt said. "You've got to get this done if you want to be the player that you want to be--and you need to be."

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