The End Result

Alabama has lost considerable talent from the defensive end position. Nautyn McKay-Loescher completed his eligibility, while Antwan Odom elected to pass up his final year of college eligibility to begin his NFL career. And so Alabama goes into the 2004 season with one defensive end whose accomplishments have been almost overlooked and another who has received widespread recognition almost solely because of his potential.

Nautyn McKay-Loescher is listed as the graduated starter at right end, but by mid-season last year Mark Anderson–almost unnoticed–had taken over the first team position. Anderson, now a junior, started in six games, including the final five Alabama contests of 2003. After being redshirted in 2001, Anderson (6-5, 239) has played in every game over the past two seasons. His 48 total tackles last year was tops among defensive linemen.

Anderson was winner of the "Ozzie Newsome Most Improved Freshman Award" in 2002 spring practice and presented with the "Billy Neighbors Most Improved Defensive Lineman Award" at the end of 2003 spring training. Early in his Bama career he worked at linebacker.

While Anderson's accomplishments have come with little fanfare, almost everyone knows the story of Todd Bates, who will take over for Antwan Odom at left end. Bates was the only true freshman to play for Alabama in 2001 (including a start against LSU), moved into the regular rotation as a back-up in 2002, then had to miss the entire 2003 season for inadvertant use of a banned substance from an over-the-counter "health" supplement.

Bates (6-4, 253) has had only limited playing time in his Bama career, but there is no questionning his potential. And he proved to the Alabama coaching staff during the season in which he had to sit out that he is a team player. Working on the scout team last fall, Bates was an exceptional performer. And this spring he was winner of the "Neighbors Award."

There is very little experience behind the two projected starters. Early fall work will likely determine the depth chart with some possibly switching sides.

Although no one has seen him play, most project the back-up to Bates to be incoming junior college transfer Chris Turner, 6-3, 287, of Northwest Mississippi. Some have also projected Turner as a tackle, but that would seem to be a factor of "wishful thinking" because of Bama's lack of depth in the middle. Turner, a native of Jacksonville, Florida, who originally signed with FSU, is projected as an end.

Chris Harris (6-5, 241, soph) saw very limited action last season after being redshirted in 2002, and Keith Saunders (6-4, 231), a redshirt freshmen, are also listed as candidates at left end.

Wallace Gilberry (6-2, 239) was a late signee in 2003, picked up after an exceptional performance in the Alabama-Mississippi all-star game. He was redshirted last fall, but showed a good work ethic. He also had a solid spring and is listed second behind Anderson at right end. Walk-on Justin Johnson (6-2, 248, redshirt freshman) could work into the mix. Bama will also have one freshman signee penciled in on the depth chart at right end, 6-2, 235-pound Travis McCall of Prattville, who was a tight end as a senior in high school.


BamaMag Top Stories