A Look At Defense

With Alabama returning 10 men who have started on defense and the one non-starter being on the Ted Hendrix Award Watch List as one of the nation's best defensive ends, there's not much room for a freshman to start.

But Alabama ordinarily plays a large number of men on defense, and if the freshmen can measure up, there could be plenty of playing time available. Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines uses a number of schemes, including some that call for as many as six defensive backs. The base defense is a 4-3 (two ends, two tackles, three linebackers, and four defensive backs), but it is not unusual to see Bama with five defensive backs with three defensive linemen and three linebackers or five defensive backs with four defensive linemen and two linebackers. >p> Head Coach Mike Shula had said that he hoped to get some depth help in the defensive line from freshmen, and that has been more a need with Mark Anderson missing the first two weeks of practice after having an arthroscopic knee procedure and Chris Harris pulling a hamstring. Both are right ends. Additionally, tackle Jeremy Clark was out for a while with an injury.

Bama brought in a number of defensive linemen, some of whom could work at either end or tackle. Brandon Fanney and Lorenzo Washington were two of those considered either end or tackle possibilities and both are in the depth chart at tackle spots. Bobby Greenwood was considered an end prospect, but is also working at tackle.

Sophomore Keith Saunders was moved to first team right tackle while Anderson and Harris were recuperating. Soph Justin Britt moved to first team at tackle in place of Clark with Greenwood and Washington backing him up.

Rudy Griffin holds down the nose tackle spot with J.P. Adams, Dominic Lee and Fanney behind him.

Wallace Gilberry, the left end and only projected defensive starter who was not a starter at some point last year, is backed by freshman Brandon Deaderick.

Alabama's linebacker corps is considered among the nation's finest with starters DeMeco Ryans at strongside, Freddie Roach at middle, and Juwan Simpson at weakside. There's a smattering of experience in the back-ups, Terrence Jones at strongside, Juke King in the middle, and Demarcus Waldop and Marcel Stamps at weakside.

One of the standouts of early work in spite of his late arrival is middle linebacker Prince Hall. He'll probably get playing time. Another middle linebacker candidate who is particularly likely to be in on goalline situations is walk-on soph Matt Collins. Baron Huber is listed as a back-up at strongside. Huber is a player who could end up playing a number of positions on both offense and defense. Zach Schreiber is a true freshman at weakside linebacker, where Jake Wingo is also listed.

The secondary has skill and depth, but the three defensive back signees are all getting early looks.

At cornerback, Chris Rogers is in the mix, although he had a rough day in the Tide's first scrimmage as he was one victim of Brodie Croyle's touchdown barrage. Rogers is working at both left cornerback (behind Simeon Castille, who has been number one while Ramzee Robinson rests a sore back) and Travis Robinson and right cornerback, where he is behind Anthony Madison, Eric Gray, and Lionel Mitchell. Mitchell is also a true freshman, but he arrived last winter and has been through workouts and spring practice.

The true freshmen safeties have made a splash. Although Charlie Peprah and Marcus Carter are ahead of Cory Reamer at strong safety, Reamer could get playing time. At safety, Roman Harper is an all-star candidate and backed by rapidly-improving Jeffrey Dukes, but Chris Keys is one of the most impressive performers in the freshmen class. Redshirt freshman Aaron McDaniel is also working at safety.

Some of these are likely to get first playing time on special teams.

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