King accepts move for good of the team

For writers that cover the team every day & every practice, weekly press conferences rarely reveal anything new. But Tuesday's meeting between Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione and the assembled media did reveal one important change. All-star defensive end candidate Kenny King will now ply his trade on the inside at nose tackle. "Coach Fran came to me and said they needed some help at D-tackle and nose guard," King related. "So I told him I'd come down and see if I could be of some assistance."

The move came as a complete surprise to most fans and reporters. But King had gotten the word earlier. "They actually talked to me last week," he explained. "They came and asked me if I could help down inside, and hopefully I can help. They've got me in the starting lineup, so hopefully I'll be OK at tackle."

"We're just looking at getting our best players on the field and having an opportunity to play them together as many snaps as we can," said Defensive Line Coach Stan Eggen. "We've said all along that we would look at several different players that played end and work them inside some to give ourselves some added depth and quickness. That's what it's doing.

A fixture defensive end from virtually the moment he arrived on campus, King has agreed to accept the position move to nose tackle. The change allows the Tide coaches to put their best four athletes on the field at the same time.

"Really in the last week and a half we just expedited that process--just to make sure that Kenny was ready to play (nose tackle)."

During his first two seasons at the Capstone, King has been a mainstay at right defensive end, putting his combination of quickness and strength to good use. As a true freshman the Daphne native started 11 of 12 games, totaling 19.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. That mark was good enough for third in Tide history, behind only Derrick Thomas and John Copeland. And his 33 quarterback pressures led that SEC championship squad.

Nagging shoulder problems kept him out of three of the last four games during his sophomore year, but King still managed a team-high 27 quarterback pressures. "(This season) I think we're better prepared," he said. "I think we're doing a great job of getting prepared this year. Coming in with a whole new defense, we've been working all spring and all Fall Camp. It's been tough, but we've gotten a lot done."

But as tough as two-a-days have been, King knows that the move to nose tackle means he's facing an entirely new challenge now. "You draw a lot of double-teams on the inside," he explained. "But if I draw a double-team then somebody else on the line (is open). It can be an advantage for another player, which can help the team."

Added Eggen; "We just appreciate the ‘team first' attitude, his willingness to play wherever needed to get the best players on the field."

King is listed at 6-5, 277, though his actual height is probably closer to 6-2 or 6-3. And while he's definitely one of the best-conditioned players on the squad (King won the ‘Iron Man' Trophy at the spring Night of Champions), the still-maturing athlete has had to work hard the last few months to keep his weight down in defensive-end range.

Those facts have led many to suggest that King's natural position is on the inside. "Since I first got (on campus) I figured I'd play end for awhile," King revealed. "But before my senior year I'd be a tackle. So (this) wasn't a surprise."

"I don't know that it's so much his more natural position," Eggen added. "We just had too many ends and not enough tackles. It's a situation where Kenny has played both positions this week, and that will probably continue throughout the year."

And while obviously shoring up the Tide defense at the critical nose tackle position, the move also provides some insurance as Alabama heads into a grueling SEC season. "We've got to protect ourselves," Eggen explained. "Somewhere down the line if one of the positions gets thinned out, then he can play both. And as the year progresses, you may see (another end) at nose tackle."

King has agreed to make the move for the good of the team. And in that regard his situation is actually very similar to Kenny Smith's. The former Tide all-star lineman began his career at defensive end, earning some All-SEC recognition in the process. But Smith's size and skills were also more suited to tackle, a position he now plays in the NFL.

"(Nose tackle) is different," King explained. "I played it some at Daphne, but this is different from high school ball. Double-teams in high school involve 400 pounds of guys, but in college you're getting hit with 600 pounds. So it's more physical at the college level."

Relatively serious shoulder problems surfaced during the 2000 season, forcing King to miss significant action. But after working extremely hard during the off-season to strengthen his neck and shoulders, the ‘stingers' that limited King's strength and mobility have not resurfaced during Fall Camp.

For the best defensive coaches (like Bama's Carl Torbush), the name of the game remains speed. Move cornerbacks to safety, safeties to outside linebacker, linebackers to defensive ends and ends to tackle--all in pursuit of gaining an edge in quickness.

And with a 4.8 clocking in the 40-yard dash to his credit, King should do well. "It's been pretty fun, to tell you the truth," he revealed. "I've been enjoying getting in the middle. You've got to be physical at tackle, so it's not going to do anything but help me in the long run. I'm on the first team now, so it looks like I'll be down inside for awhile."

Any major position move this close to the season will inevitably reverberate through the depth chart. And King to nose tackle has elevated Aries Monroe to first-team at end. "Aries and I have been talking," King said. "I can help him some, by having played more games. I know what Aries is facing, and I can teach Aries the ropes at end. Of course I don't need to teach him much. He's fine.

"And Jarret (Johnson, starting left defensive tackle) is now helping me at tackle. That gives me a chance to learn from Jarret. We can work together. We all know what each other is doing, so with Jarret we can run some stunts--some little trick plays."

King's humble "I'll try to be of some assistance" line notwithstanding, there is no doubt that he feels regret at leaving his preferred position. He explained; "Every lineman wants to be an end, and every defensive end wants to be a linebacker. I want to be a defensive end, but I enjoy playing tackle, too."

And when it comes to the larger goal of returning the Tide to championship form, sometimes sacrifices have to be made. "I understand where (the coaches) are coming from," King said. "This gives us the best four (athletes) on the field. This gives us the best chance for us to win.

"So I'll play tackle."


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