DePriest, Jackson Expected To Be On Defense

One of the interesting aspects of Alabama’s season-opening 33-23 win over West Virginia is that the Crimson Tide started only one man on defense who had started the 2013 season-opener against Virginia Tech.

Although Alabama has a handful of returning starters on this year’s team, some of them were not starters at the beginning of the year, and a couple who were starters in the opener last year did not start in this year’s game.

The only man who started on defense in both games is Jarrick Williams, who is the star (or nickel back) in the Bama system. Ironically, Williams suffered a fracture in his foot late in the game and will be out for about a month after having had surgery Sunday.

Meanwhile, a mainstay of the Alabama defense the last few years will be back on the field in the critical middle linebacker position this week when the Tide hosts Florida Atlantic. Trey DePriest, a pre-season all-star, was suspended for the first game for what was described as a “minor” violation of NCAA rules.

“He’s back on the team,” Alabama Coach Nick Saban said Wednesday. “He wasn’t suspended by me. He made a mistake, he paid for it, and he’s available to play. And we’re looking forward to him having the opportunity to play and hopefully affect our team in a positive way as well as him performing like he’s capable.”

Saban said that DePriest’s absence played a part in Alabama not playing “defense the way we want to play it. We made a lot of mental errors. But I think not having Trey DePriest, our signal caller on defense up front, created a little confusion playing in the no-huddle with two linebackers who really could be good players but got a little confused. I think that created a lot of anxiety for us.

“I think we settled down and played a little bit better in the second half. There's a lot of room for improvement. I think most of the things that we didn't do correctly can be corrected, which is very encouraging.

“I think we are capable of playing a lot better. That's certainly a challenge for us as coaches, because we're ultimately responsible for how the guys go out there and play in how we prepare them to play.

“That's something that we're trying to do a much better job of this week, and I think the players are committed to that as well.”

Also making a return to action will be cornerback Eddie Jackson, a sophomore who started four games last year and was working with the first defense in the spring when he suffered an ACL tear. He had surgery and has made a surprisingly quick recovery.

“He has practiced and he has done well,” Saban said. “I feel like we'll play him some in this game, some kind of way, trying to ease him back into what he has to do to become a player at his position, which I think he's totally capable of and a very good player that we're anxious to get back in the lineup, but certainly not at the expense of putting him in any risk.

“From a medical standpoint, he's been cleared. So now we're sort of working him into it and he's looked pretty good.”

It appeared in individual drills this week that he was working in the cornerback spot held last week by Bradley Sylve.

Among others who could return to the starting defense this week is nose tackle Brandon Ivory.

Saban said the first game helps get a gauge for the team and that there are “obviously a lot of things that you want to improve on.”

He said the home opener is exciting. Alabama and Florida Atlantic will kick off in Bryant-Denny Stadium at 11 a.m. CDT kickoff time for the benefit of the SEC Network. Despite that inconvenient time, Saban urged Bama fans to be there and to stay until the end.

“We ask the players to play for 60 minutes in a game regardless of the outcome. I think our fans are a big part of our team, and we'd like to see them make the same kind of commitment to support the team.”

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