Daron Payne breaks through the UTC offensive line (Photo by Stuart McNair)

Alabama returns the top three players at nose tackle from last season

Ninth in a series looking at Alabama positions prior to spring practice

There are questions in Alabama’s defensive front seven, but one of the positions has a clear answer. DaRon Payne, Bama’s 6-2, 319-pound junior nose tackle is a legitimate all-star candidate for the Crimson Tide going to the 2017 season.
Nose tackle in Alabama’s 3-4 defense is a position where statistics are not always relevant to the performance. His assignments are to make up blockers (it takes two to handle Payne) to free up inside linebackers and to push the pile in passing situation to collapse the pocket for outside rushers.
Even at that, Payne had satisfactory statistics last year, getting in on 36 tackles, including two sacks, breaking up a pass, recovering a fumble and getting in for a touchdown in the comeback win over Ole Miss, and breaking up a pass.
Not only is Payne one of the strongest players on Alabama’s team, he is also extraordinarily athletic.
This is part of a series looking at all Alabama positions prior to the start of spring drills.
While Payne, who played in every game with three starts as a freshman in 2015, started every game in the defensive middle for Bama last year.
Alabama also returns the top two back-ups from last year in Josh Frazier (6-4, 315, senior) and O.J. Smith (6-2, 309, junior).
Frazier saw action in every Alabama game last year and became more prominent as the season progressed. He was in on eight tackles and had a sack and a quarterback pressure.
Smith played in one game early in the season.
Nose tackle is an area where Alabama sometimes uses one of its defensive ends in special situations and the Tide has several candidates who can play both inside and outside.
Although a starting date for Alabama spring practice has not yet been announced, it is expected to begin after the completion of The University’s spring break, which is March 11-19. The A-Day Game will be April 22.

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