Football Fights: Right End

Alabama Coach Mike Shula seemed almost reluctant to mention it the first day that Keith Saunders took over the number one spot at right defensive end in spring practice. After all, Saunders had been around for a few years without making much of a move and Bobby Greenwood looked like a superstar in the making as a true freshman in 2005.

But Keith Saunders, a 6-3, 246-pound junior, held on to that first team spot through the end of spring practice and will go into fall drills in August as the numbr one right defensive end.

That was not the only story of the spring at right end. Of even more interest than the battle between Saunders and 6-6, 260-pound sophomore Bobby Greenwood was the play of Ezekial Knight at the defensive flank spot manned the past few years by All-Southeastern Conference star Mark Anderson.

Zeke Knight was a wide receiver for two years. But after a season of dropped balls in 2005, Knight asked for -- and was granted -- the opportunity to give defense a try. Many had expected Knight to be a linebacker in college, but instead the 6-3, 217-pound junior made the move to defensive end. It was no surprise that he was quick enough to be an effective pass rusher, even while getting the rust off after a few years away from defense. There were days he struggled in run defense, but there were also days when he did well.

At the end of spring work, Knight confidentally predicted his off-season weightroom work would make him a complete defensive end.

But Knight will have to go some to pass Saunders and Greenwood.

Saunders was little-used prior to last season. He was redshirted in 2003, then saw very limited duty in five games as a freshman in 2004. Last season he saw playing time in every game and had a start against Utah State, when he was in for a season-high 30 plays.

For the year he had 11 tackles with three tackles for loss and one sack. He played 175 snaps.

Greenwood was the back-up for Anderson as a true freshman last year and was honored as a first team Freshman All-Southeastern Conference selection. He played in every game, getting 157 snaps. He made 15 tackles, including five tackles for losses of 27 yards. He had three sacks for 22 yards and five quarterback pressures and broke up a pass.

Saunders didn't grab the first team right defensive end spot in the spring because Greenwood had a poor practice. Greenwood looked very good. This is a position that should benefit from the competition.

Editor's Note: The 2006 starter is almost a sure thing at a number of Alabama football positions, mostly spots where starters return from Bama's 2005 football team that went 10-2. But one thing that increases the productivity of a team is having quality competition at every position. The Crimson Tide is not yet to that point, but there are positions where the battle is on. This is another in our look at the battle for positions for 2006.


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