11 Tiders Who Could Make A Team

All across the country this week college football coaches are making final preparations to begin Fall Camp with 105 players, the number allowed prior to the start of classes. Alabama, for instance, has its players report Thursday and begin practice Friday. On August 22, classes will begin and the roster can be expanded.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban and his cohorts soon will begin to get players prepared for duty on offense, defense, and special teams.

Once upon a time NCAA rules required players to go both ways, Various and complicated substitution rules were in effect to keep players on the field for offense and defense, and coaches devised various tactics to contend with those rules. In 1965 the rules were changed to mimic the pro game. Free substitution – the way football is played today – went into effect, permitting teams to have offensive and defensive units.

In the early 1970s we were able to remember the old one-platoon football, and so Sang Lyda, an Alabama trainer, and I would spend a little time each year during pre-season camp deciding which 11 Crimson Tide players we would select for a team of two-way players.

Although it may serve no useful purpose to continue the mental exercise, we have continued the practice every year. And perhaps it gives a clue as to players we would trust to be able to accomplish a very difficult task.

Sometimes it's fairly easy to make a selection because of a player's background as both an offensive and defensive player. There are two positions – quarterback and center – that include such specialized skills that particular care is taken in the selection.

Although it makes it a bit more difficult, we have selected our 11-man team this year based on a Crimson Tide's offense of center, two guards, two tackles, center, quarterback, tailback, H-back, and two wide receivers and a defense of nose tackle, two ends, two outside linebackers, two inside linebackers, two cornerbacks, and two safeties.

Here are our selections with the player listed first by his offensive position and then by his defensive spot:

QUARTERBACK – There have been many years when our selection was a defensive back who had been a high school quarterback, a player like upcoming redshirt freshman Jabriel Washington, who accounted for over 3,600 yards of offense and 40 touchdowns as a prep senior.

But because the position is so important, our choice is A.J. McCarron. Not only is McCarron an outstanding quarterback (as evidenced by him winning the MVP Offensive Player award in leading Bama to the BCS National Championship last year), he is by all accounts an emerging leader. And he has shown toughness (though not always discretion, such as when he went on the attack against a Florida defender in Gainesville last year) in playing hurt, so on defense we will have him at SAFETY.

CENTER – In the days of Alabama's one platoon football, the center was usually also a middle linebacker, the likes of Lee Roy Jordan and Paul Crane. Although Barrett Jones has no defensive experience we are aware of, and even though an honest assessment could be that he is not yet proved as a center, either, there is no way we would leave last year's Outland Trophy winner off our team of 11. He has proved he can be an All-America at guard and tackle on the offensive line and Saban is convinced he can do the job at center, where he is pre-season All-Southeastern Conference. We believe that the athleticism he showed as a left tackle means he would also be effective as an WEAKSIDE LINEBACKER even at 6-5 and 302 pounds.

TAILBACK – Blake Sims has demonstrated extraordinary versatility in his time at Alabama. The 6-0, 212-pound sophomore is probably listed as no better than fourth team on the Tide's offensive depth chart, but in our one platoon system we want him to play tailback and RIGHT CORNERBACK.

Our second choice at tailback would be Jalston Fowler. When the 6-1, 240-pound Fowler arrived at Bama, many thought he should have been put at the middle linebacker position. However, our 11-man team needs someone to play cornerback more than to play inside linebacker.

H-BACK – This position is already something of a hybrid – part tight end, part fullback – that takes size for blocking and agility and good hands for receiver duties. Brent Calloway came to Alabama as a tailback, but the 6-2, 217-pound upcoming redshirt freshman was also considered an outstanding linebacker prospect. He spent his redshirt season as a tailback, then moved to outside linebacker in spring practice. In the final days of the spring, Calloway was put at H-Back, and he's our choice to play there and also play STRONGSIDE LINEBACKER.

We also thought about sophomore Trey DePriest (6-2, 242), who was a high school fullback and is favored to be Bama's middle linebacker this season, and Brian Vogler (6-7, 252), who was a tight end and defensive end in high school and is probably the leading candidate at H-Back in 2012. Redshirt freshman Harrison Jones (6-4, 248) is also worth a thought.

In considering wide receivers, we give particular weight to the defensive side. In Alabama's offense, the wide receiver must also be good blockers, so the toughness factor is important.

SPLIT END – Incoming freshman Eddie Williams has good size at 6-3, 204, and also arrives with a reputation as an outstanding safety. Our choice, however, is upcoming soph Vinnie Sunseri, who seems headed for the starting job at strong safety and who was an all-around good player – offense and defense – in high school. Sunseri, 6-0, 217, has demonstrated his toughness for college football, and he ‘s the son of a college coach, brother of a college quarterback, all of which makes us want him on our team of 11. He'll also be the STRONG SAFETY.

FLANKER – Bradley Sylve (5-11, 170) spent his first year at Alabama being redshirted and working at wide receiver until late in the fall, when he was moved to cornerback. He also participated as a cornerback in the spring. Our choice, however, is Deion Belue, a junior college transfer who signed with Alabama for the second time and entered The University in time to participate in spring practice. the 5-11, 178-pound Belue, who had been a fine prep receiver, finished spring practice at number one on the right side, but on this team he is LEFT CORNERBACK.

TIGHT END – Perhaps the easiest decision for our team of 11, Michael Williams is one of the most athletic players for the Tide. The 6-6, 269-pound upcoming senior came to Alabama as a defensive end. He had starred on both offense and defense as a prep star, and was also an all-state basketball player. He'll obviously also play at LEFT DEFENSIVE END.

LEFT TACKLE – One of the two most important positions on the offensive line, there was a great temptation to go with the first team offensive player for this position. Cyrus Kouandjio (6-6, 322) has played only a handful of college games and is coming off a knee surgery, though anyone watching him in the spring A-Day Game would say the upcoming sophomore shows no effects from the injury. This is another position, though, where we lean to the defense. Quinton Dial, an upcoming senior defensive end, has the size (6-6, 304) to play on the offensive line and the athleticism to replace Courtney Upshaw at JACK LINEBACKER.

RIGHT TACKLE – We're going with the pre-season All-America at his natural college position, 6-6, 335-pound upcoming junior D.J. Fluker. Because he had an outstanding prep career in which he spent most of his time on defense, we are confident he will be effective at NOSE TACKLE.

LEFT GUARD – Chance Warmack is a 6-3, 320-pound three-year starter and the upcoming senior is one of the Tide's strongest players. Primarily because he has shown very good athleticism in blocks on the outside and downfield, he gets the nod in part because he looks like he could be a fine MIDDLE LINEBACKER.

Another starting guard also got consideration for these spots. Anthony Steen, a 6-3, 303-pound junior, is Bama's starting right guard and also has experience as a defensive lineman.

RIGHT GUARD -- When freshman Alphonse Taylor (6-5, 340) entered The University in January, he said that he had been recruited to play nose tackle. During spring drills, though, he was changed to an offensive guard. That earned him consideration for the final position on our 11-man team.

But we're not leaving Mr. 600-Pound Bench Press off this squad. Senior Jesse Williams started at defensive end his first season, but the 6-4, 320-pounder moved to nose tackle in the spring. He'll be the right guard on offense and goes back to his old RIGHT DEFENSIVE END spot on defense.

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