Spreading the love

Rather than have two or three stars on either side of the ball be the stars of the team, Alabama has a balanced group of players who can all make plays.

Alabama has taken team effort to a new level.

Unlike some of the Crimson Tide teams of yore, this one doesn't feature one or two players on either side of the ball. Instead, it takes advantage of its depth and uses every single man on the field to make plays.

Offensively, seven different players have carried the ball, four of which have rushed for touchdowns, and quarterback A.J. McCarron has hit 15 different receivers, connecting with six for 10 touchdowns.

Defensively, 16 players have had a tackle for loss, 10 have made sacks, eight have broken up a pass and six have made an interception.

The Tide knows how to spread the love.

And this is the way head coach Nick Saban likes it. He doesn't care that there aren't a few selected players with outrageous stats.

"We probably have a team that doesn't have as many defined stars as we've had in the past, and of course you all define them, so that's not my doing," Saban said. "I think we have a lot of guys that have had a lot of opportunity to play, which is a good thing."

Offensively, the Tide has relied on guys like Mark Ingram or Trent Richardson to lead the rushing attack in recent years. Four games in, true freshman T.J. Yeldon leads all running backs with 254 yards and two touchdowns, but junior Eddie Lacy is right behind him with 232 yards and four touchdowns. After those two, three other players—Kenyan Drake, Jalston Fowler (though he's now out for the season) and Dee Hart—have rushed for over 80 yards. And Drake, who is technically considered fourth-string, is second behind Lacy with three touchdowns.

"We're like brothers," Lacy said of his fellow backs. "Whoever's number is called, we're going to get in and do what we have to do."

A true freshman also leads the wide outs. Amari Cooper has caught nine passes for 138 yards and six other players have racked up over 90 yards receiving.

Last week against Florida Atlantic, veteran Kevin Norwood, who was the Tide's leading receiver heading into the game, was sidelined with a foot injury. But on the third play of the game, his backup Kenny Bell caught a short pass from McCarron and ran 85 yards for a touchdown. By game's end, every receiver on Alabama's two-deep (minus Norwood) had caught a pass.

That's the kind of depth and balance this team has all around. One player goes out, five others step in.

Defensively, the amount of tackles for all starters looks about even. Linebacker C.J. Mosley leads with 29, but nine other guys are on his heels.

"It just lets you know we have a lot of guys playing fast," said defensive end Damion Square. "You don't want three guys to stand out above the rest, because I don't think that's a sign of a great defense. Great defenses spread it out across the board."

Safety Robert Lester has a seemingly quiet stat line of 11 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a pass break up, but he said that doesn't bother him because it just means his teammates are all playing at a high level.

"I'm here to do my job, eliminate as many mental errors as possible, communicate with other players, put them into position and make plays," he said. "Teams game plan to go away from certain players. That's out of my hands. But there are other players on the field, and if they are in the right spot, they'll make the plays."

Same goes for Square, whose individual stat line reads 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks. And just like Lester, he doesn't care.

"I'm just having fun, so whatever comes from that," he said. "I can't go out there and think about numbers because that would be selfish. Bad things happen when you go out and approach the game like that, I've done things like that before. So I just go out and play fast, get to the ball and play football the way it's supposed to be played."

The unselfishness on both sides of the ball has undoubtedly helped Alabama start the year 4-0, while outscoring opponents 168-21 and holding them to an average of 185 total yards per game.

"It shows that everybody on our team is capable of making plays and doing what they are supposed to do," Lester said.


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