Not Many Defensive Tackles

There are important dates ahead. All Alabama football players report on August 9 and begin practice August 10. The first game is September 4. But one of the most important dates–particularly as it concerns the Crimson Tide defensive line–is August 16, which is the date of University of Alabama graduation for those who complete requirements this summer.

The biggest of those potential graduates (figuratively and literally) could be Anthony Bryant. Bryant took one course in the first semester of summer school and was taking two classes in the second session, which begins today. If he completes the courses successfully, he earns his Alabama degree and also earns another year of football eligibility. If he does not fulfill those requirements, his college football career is over. That's because Bryant was a partial qualifier in 2000. He has been a three-year regular and started every game in 2003. But in order to regain the year of playing time he lost in 2000, he must earn his degree.

It is hard to imagine an effective Alabama defensive line this season without Bryant. Although he was not expected to be able to provide a lot of downs in 2003, he had a total of 651 snaps out of 897 defensive plays last year. And this year he is expected to be in even better shape, down from 336 at the start of last season to "only" 315 pounds on his 6-3 frame. He was a steady performer for Bama last year with 44 tackles, including one on Auburn's fine tailback Carnell Williams for a safety. Bryant had a surprisingly high number of quarterback pressures, 12, and also broke up two passes. He is one of Alabama's strongest players.

Alabama also returns the other starting defensive tackle from 2003. Jeremy Clark, a redshirt freshman last year, played in 11 games (he missed the Northern Illinois and Arkansas games with a foot injury) and started seven, including the final five games of the season. In his first career start, against Southern Miss, he had six tackles and forced a fumble. He is 6-2, 290.

Bryant and Clark got plenty of practice time in the spring. That's because they were the only two returning letter-winner tackles to make it through spring training. Ahmad Childress could have returned for his final year of eligibility, but elected to give up college football. He was not selected in the NFL draft. One experienced defensive tackle, Kyle Tatum, and one transfer, Taylor Britt, were moved to the offensive line during the spring.

Most expect Dominic Lee to be an excellent player after having been Alabama Lineman of the Year as a prep senior. As a true freshman last year, the 6-2, 302-pounder worked his way into the playing rotation. He missed most of spring work after undergoing surgery on his ankle.

Three non-scholarshipped players have a chance to provide depth in the defensive line. Rudy Griffin, a 6-0, 284-pound junior, played two years for former Tide Assistant Coach Ellis Johnson at the Citadel before transferring to Bama last year. He sat out last season and has two years of eligibility remaining. J.P. Adams III, the 6-2, 262-pound son of a University professor, has been a two-year walk-on whose game action has been limited. But he could move into the playing rotation this fall. Allen Long, a 6-2, 254-pound sophomore, started his Bama career as a linebacker, but has grown into a defensive lineman.

When Justin Britt (6-4, 270), the younger brother of Tiders Wesley and Taylor, signed with Alabama last February, he said he might like to play on the offensive line. But Britt, who was known for his play at linebacker and on the defensive line in high school, has reportedly bulked up to defensive line size and is expected to be there this fall. He's one of the few potential defensive tackle signees who will be in camp as reports have Brandon Fanney and Lorenzo Washington headed to prep school and Kevin Hamilton and Jeremie Holifield likely to begin their college careers in junior college.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is another in our summer series of looks at Alabama football positions for the 2004 season.

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