Alabama has had the nation’s best winning record in the Nick Saban Era, four national championships the primary measuring stick of Crimson Tide dominance, and a big reason for that defensive play has been excellent defensive ends in the Bama 3-4 scheme.
Although Alabama lists every defensive end and nose tackle as “defensive lineman” because the players are frequently capable of playing both spots, this is a look at the men who have been best known for their play at end. For instance, Lorenzo Washington, who started in 2009 at end, and Jesse Williams, an end in 2011, were both included at nose tackle in our examination of each position during the first nine years of the Saban Era at Bama.
Alabama got off to a good start at defensive end with a couple of men Saban inherited. Wallace Gilberry had been a last minute Alabama signee after his performance in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game, and he continued his all-star play for the Tide. He was a senior in 2007 when Saban took over and that season turned in 80 tackles, 27 for loss, including 10 sacks. In his four-year career he had 188 tackles, 61 for loss, with 23 sacks and was All-Southeastern Conference. Although he was also overlooked by the NFL and not drafted, he has been in the professional ranks since leaving Alabama with Kansas City, Tampa Bay, and Cincinnati.
The most outstanding defensive end of the Saban Era probably has been Marcell Dareus. Alhough officially listed as a starter in only the 2010 season, in the 2009 national championship season he was the leading tackler among Bama defensive linemen with 33 tackles, 9 for loss, with 7 sacks, 5 passes broken up, 5 quarterback pressures, and 1 interception. That interception, which he returned 28 yards for a touchdown three seconds before halftime, gave the Tide a 24-6 lead over Texas in the national championship game in the Rose Bowl as Alabama went on to a 37-21 win over the Longhorns.
The next year he turned in 34 tackles, 11 for loss including 5 sacks, and broke up 4 passes. He was All-SEC and drafted in the first round, third overall, by Buffalo.
Saban’s two most recent defensive ends, Jarran Reed, who is expected to be a high draft choice this year, and Jonathan Allen, who will return for his senior season in 2016, both rank among the best of the era.
As a junior, Reed had 55 tackles, 7 for loss, and 5 passes broken up. In the 2015 national championship season, he had 57 tackles, 5 for loss, and 8 quarterback pressures.
Allen, also a starter the past two years, had 33 tackles, 12 for loss including 6 sacks, as a junior. Last season he turned in 57 tackles, 5 for loss, and had 8 quarterback pressures.
Bobby Greenwood was a starter at end in 2007 and 2008 and had 60 tackles, 12 for loss, and 6 sacks. Although overlooked in the draft, he spent two years in the NFL with Kansas City.
Brandon Deaderick, a starter in 2008-09, was a quality backup on the 2007 title team with 22 tackles. As a junior he had 40 tackles, 7 for loss with 5 sacks, and as a senior had 23 tackles with 5 for loss and a sack. He was drafted in the seventh round by New England and played for the Patriots, Jacksonville, and New Orleans.
Luther Davis was a one-year starter, 2010, and had 21 tackles, 3 for loss.
Damion Square started in 2011 and 2012, both national championship teams, and had 32 tackles with 7 for loss and 1 sack in 2011 and 33 tackles including 4 sacks in 2012.
Ed Stinson started in 2012 and 2013. He had 30 tackles with 9 for loss and 3 sacks in the 2012 championship season and 42 tackles with 2 sacks in 2013. He was drafted in the fifth round by Arizona.
Jeoffrey Pagan had 23 tackles with 4 for loss and 2 sacks as a back-up in 2012, and as a starter in 2013 turned in 34 tackles with 4 for loss and 2 sacks. He was drafted in the sixth round by Houston.
We would rank Marcell Dareus as the No. 1 defensive end of the Saban Era, followed by Jarran Reed, Jonathan Allen, Wallace Gilberry, Ed Stinson, Damion Square, Jeoffrey Pagan, Bobby Greenwood, Brandon Deaderick, and Luther Davis.