By the (star) numbers: defensive line

This week we're going through every position and analyzing the accuracy of's star ratings on Alabama's actual performance at that position. Up next: defensive line. Again these stories are about players who have already seen time on the field.

Quinton Dial – three-star

LaMichael Fanning – four-star

Brandon Ivory – two-star

Jeoffrey Pagan – four-star

Damion Square – four-star

Ed Stinson – three-star

Jesse Williams – four-star

Sometimes Alabama's defensive linemen don't get enough credit.

Last year's defense was highlighted by All-Americans like linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower and safety Mark Barron.

But the thing is, if it hadn't been for the production on the defensive front, those guys wouldn't have been able to make all the glorified plays that they did.

Last season, Alabama led the nation in all major defensive categories—scoring defense (8.2 points per game), total defense (183.6 yards per game), rushing defense (72.15) and passing defense (111.5) and only allowed three rushing touchdowns all year.

And all that starts with the men up front.

The line lost veterans Josh Chapman and Nick Gentry, but returns rising seniors Damion Square, Quinton Dial and Jesse Williams, the likely starting trio of Alabama's 3-4 defense.

Square, originally rated a four-star player by, has become an invaluable part of the Crimson Tide's defense. He's a speedy, lean pass-rusher, who stands at 6-foot-3, 286. He's not Marcell Dareus, who was 6-4, 306 his final year at Alabama, and his stats last season weren't spectacular—32 tackles, one sack—but his experience and leadership on the line will be key.

This will be Dial's first year as a starter and he's more than capable of owning the strong side, and being better than his three-star rating. He's physically gifted at 6-6, 294, and has a long wingspan that will frustrate quarterbacks because he'll be able to bat balls down. Last year he posted 19 tackles and a sack.

Williams, a JUCO nose tackle from Australia, is dangerous. His strength allows him to hold off double teams and stuff the run and he can also maneuver out of them to rush the passer. A raw talent at first, Williams, who played defensive end last season and has since been moved to tackle with the loss of Chapman and Gentry, has become more knowledgeable of the schematics with some experience under his belt (had 24 tackles, four for loss in 2011).

Defensive linemen get tired, so head coach Nick Saban needs a bunch of them to rotate through without any drop-off. That's where players like Ed Stinson (sits behind Square), Brandon Ivory and Jeoffry Pagan come in handy.

This defense isn't last year's national championship group, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. All they have to do is make sure everyone is in sync because when a Saban defensive line does things right, they stop the run and make teams one-dimensional and dominate the rest of the game.

For more Alabama coverage, follow Laken Litman on Twitter!

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