Young Defenders Had a Chance to Show Off

Joe Kines doesn't have a problem keeping things in perspective – good or bad. With the conclusion of Saturday's A-Day game Kines finished his third spring in his current stint as Alabama's defensive coordinator.

"I've been married to the same ol' gal for 47 years, and one anniversary is just like the rest of them," he said. "One spring game is just like the rest of them."

The only position on the Tide defense where a player with significant starting experience is not returning is the defensive end position vacated by Todd Bates. Wallace Gilberry, a stellar back-up a year ago, has assumed the starting role at left defensive end.

So Kines spent the spring looking at young guys. DeMeco Ryans and Freddie Roach were held out of Saturday's scrimmage to get a better look at some of them.

"I thought Matt Collins has really made a big stride," Kines said of the sophomore from Clay-Chalkville. "The big thing now is how much his body mechanics can improve over the summer."

Kines added that Collins is already a solid defender of the inside running game, and must improve in running to the ball and making plays in the open field. He is listed at 6-1, 236 pounds. He was credited with one tackle and one pass break-up at the A-Day game, but he had five tackles in the March 12 scrimmage.

Matt Collins and DeMeco Ryans at Bama's March 12th scrimmage

The best thing about Collins, Kines said, is that he is a smart player, a 4.0 student who understands the game.

Kines said back-up linebacker Marcel Stamps is frustrating to coach at times, but has two main ingredients to being a good outside linebacker.

"He can run to the ball and he likes to hit," Kines said.

Kines was most comfortable with the depth developing in the backfield. Four starters return and Simeon Castille is an experienced sophomore.

Kines said he feels good about the defensive backs' rotation, "not only because of Simeon, but I thought Lionel Mitchell had a nice day (1 tackle and 2 pass break-ups). Eric Gray was having a really good spring before he got hurt, and we've got a couple of freshman coming in that we think we can get ready to play in the fall."

The thinnest position on the defensive side of the ball, in the spring at least, was the defensive tackle spot. 2004 starter Jeremy Clark and Dominic Lee were out for the entire spring after having arthroscopic knee surgery just before the beginning of spring drills, and 2004 letterman Justin Britt was limited in the spring after off-season surgery on both feet. That gave little-used reserve Curtis Dawson a chance to get the bulk of the repetitions next to Rudy Griffin at defensive tackle.

"I thought Curtis (Dawson, former linebacker) made improvement and Rudy Griffin has had a nice spring. Britt did good things when he could," Kines said.

Griffin won the Billy Neighbors Most Improved Defensive Lineman award for the spring.

J.P. Adams got a chance to play more, too. He had two tackles for loss Saturday.

Thinness at defensive tackle might lead Alabama to more three-man front alignments in the fall. Alabama employed a four-man defensive line for the majority of the past two seasons, but showed more diversity toward the end of the year.

Alabama might also be counting on freshmen like Bobby Greenwood and Byron Walton to come in and provide depth at the tackle position. Lorenzo Washington and Brandon Fanney are seen as possibilities at tackle, but have primarily played end.

Kines says his defense will continue to do the same thing they've always done, they're not going to change a thing. Of course, when the Tide went to the three-man front more toward the end of last season it was also described as "nothing different".

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