Football Fight: Defensive Tackle

There are positions on a football field which are almost interchangeable. A split end is a lineman and a flanker is a back, but they have many of the same responsibilities as blockers and pass receivers and even as runners on gadget plays. On defense, it is not unusual to see a safety on the strong side and a strong side safety on the weak side. Cornerbacks in man coverage can end up anywhere.

In Alabama's normal 4-3 defensive alignment–meaning the Crimson Tide has four defensive linemen, two ends and two tackles–the tackles are theoretically interchangeable. In Bama nomenclature there is a nose tackle, or two technique, and a left tackle, or three technique. And it is Alabama's habit to teach all the tackles both positions, but ordinarily to keep each player in only one spot.

This year, and particularly in the season-opening game against pass-happy Hawaii, it is always possible that Alabama will be in a variety of schemes, including some in which there is only one tackle. A defense with five secondary players could mean the elimination of a defensive lineman (usually a tackle) or a linebacker. A dime package, with six defensive backs, likely would drop both a linebacker and a lineman.

There's not much mystery about the number one left tackle going into the 2006 season. Jeremy Clark, a 6-3, 305-pound senior, has been a regular since his first year of play in 2003 following a redshirt season. Clark, who earned his degree in May, was Bama's leading tackler among tackles last fall.

There is some irony in that Alabama's defense is designed so that the tackles, of all people, make relatively few tackles. Thus, Clark led all others with just 18 in 12 games. (He started eight games; in the others Bama did not open the game with two tackles.)

Clark was a starter in all 12 games as a sophomore in 2004 and started seven games (and played in sll 11) as a freshman. For his career he has been in on 62 tackles, including eight for losses of 34 yards, and has been in on five sacks for 30 yards. He has caused a fumble, broke up a pass, and been credited with five quarterback pressures.

Last year Clark alternated with Justin Britt at left tackle. This year Britt will be across the line, playing at offensive guard.

There could be some movement among tackle candidates. At the end of spring practice it appeared that four men were working at nose tackle (Dominic Lee, J.P. Adams, Brandon Fanney, and Byron Walton) and two at left tackle (Clark and Lorenzo Washington).

Washington was a highly-regarded prospect as a 17-year-old high school senior. After a year of prep school and a redshirt season, he's a 6-4, 274-pound freshman who will be 20 in December. He came to Alabama as an end prospect and has good speed and quickness for a defensive tackle.

One of his prep school teammates was Fanney, 6-5, 270, who seems to be the only nose tackle who could move to left tackle.

Although Alabama did not sign a defensive tackle in February, there has been conjecture that Brian Motley, a 6-2, 274-pound offensive lineman, could be tried at defensive tackle.

Editor's Note: This is one of a summer series in which we look at the Alabama depth chart position-by-position. This is the final defensive position to be examined.


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