Ivory Stepping Up As Player, Leader

Brandon Ivory didn't have a huge statistical game when Alabama met Georgia in the Southeastern Conference Championship tilt last December in Atlanta, but that doesn't mean he didn't have a lot of eyes watching him. That's because he found himself on the front line in the struggle.

Alabama was trailing Georgia midway through the fourth quarter when starting Crimson Tide nose tackle Jesse Williams went to the sideline limping. That meant that Brandon Ivory, then a third-year sophomore who had played in 16 career games and been a part of 25 tackles, was thrust into the fray.

Ivory didn't panic.

"I knew it was my time to step up," Ivory said.

Playing time wasn't foreign to Ivory. The 6-4, 300-pound nose tackle from Memphis had played in 11 games going into the SEC Championship contest. A week earlier he had made two solo tackles and assisted on another against Auburn. He had started early in the season against Western Carolina and recovered a fumble.

And Williams had been banged up a few times during the season.

"We had a few incidents like that during the season," Ivory said. "That kind of got me ready for that big time to come in and step up and play."

Ivory wasn't prepared for what happened later in the fourth quarter, though. As the Tide defense prepared to take the field, Williams grabbed Ivory. Ivory said, "He was like, ‘No, I got it.' I was like, ‘I've got to let a leader be a leader.'"

Bama held on for a 32-28 win over Georgia for the SEC Championship and the opportunity to play for the national title.

As Alabama prepared for the BCS National Championship Game against Notre Dame, Ivory said he and Williams "went half and half. We took have of the reps so he wouldn't get too far behind in practice. He got a fair amount."

Ivory also got playing time in that game, making one tackle in the 42-14 win over the Fighting Irish.

Now Williams has gone, expected to be selected in the upcoming NFL draft. That puts Ivory as a veteran on the offensive line.

"It feels pretty good," Ivory said of his heightened status. "It feels good to know I've got people under me looking up to me as being the leader. I'm challenging myself as being a leader.

"Last year I looked up to leaders like Damion Square and Jesse. I'm trying to play the role they played and be a leader for Darren Lake and the younger players."

He said that he finds himself saying the same thing to younger players that he used to hear from Square and Williams. "Our practices are hard and challenging," he said. "Halfway through practice you may see some guys, you know....

"They used to motivate us last year, like, ‘Come on, guys. We've got to step up.' That's the same thing I try to do."

Ivory considers himself to be a better player because of the experience. "I know the game a little more," he said. "It all plays out to where I can read the offenses better, know what the offensive lineman is going to do, know my pre-snap rules, and all that type of stuff. That knowledge has made me a better player, and we can all progress on the defensive line."

One thing he has done is make the weight his coaches have prescribed. "They want me to be 305 to play nose guard and I'm in a range of 303 to 306," he said. "I'm right there."

Now, can he take it to the next step? Meaning, can he be a blocking back on offense in goalline situations like Jesse Williams?

"I'm working on that," Ivory said. "Working on that."

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