New DLs impress position coach

With only 16 new scholarshipped players reporting this fall, Bama's 2002 class is hardly the largest around. But six quality athletes on the defensive line have Coach Stan Eggen smiling. <br><br>"We've got a ways to go with our technique, but right now I'm pleased with their effort and their eagerness to learn and do it right," he said.

"I've been impressed with all six. They appear to be eager to learn. They've got a good work ethic. I haven't had to talk to them in terms of effort. They come ready to play and they go hard."

For Eggen the last statement is key. Talent is nice, but without all-out effort on every down a defensive lineman can't play for Alabama. "For freshmen, they're a group of very athletic big bodies," Eggen said. "We tested their strength in the weight room. That was good. Not only was their strength good, but their quickness and explosion and athleticism is excellent.

J.P. Adams, a walk-on defensive end from Tuscaloosa's County High school gets in his three-point stance.

"I'm excited about the group."

Four of the newcomers are true freshmen, getting their first taste of college football. But big Ahmad Childress' experience in junior college has him leading the pack. Listed at 6-7 and 323 pounds, Childress will be counted on to play immediately for the Tide.

"Big and athletic, those are the two words I'd use to describe Ahmad," Eggen said. "He's plenty big enough to play defensive tackle. Ahmad is a year older than the rest, so he's a little more mature physically. But I've been very impressed with him. Ahmad has stood out in the couple of drills that we did against the offensive line."

Fans are familiar with Wesley Britt, Bama's second year starting offensive tackle who was named All-SEC Freshman last season. But Wesley's younger brother, Taylor, is making a name for himself as well. Taylor originally signed with UAB as an offensive lineman, but he transferred to The Capstone this past summer and is now working on defense.

"I think Taylor Britt can be a defensive tackle for us," Eggen said. "He worked mainly on offense last year (at UAB), so there are some techniques that he's learning. But Taylor will end up helping us. He can't play this year, but he's got a chance."

Taylor Britt (# 52), Ahmad Childress (# 95) and Kyle Tatum (#85) take a quick break at practice.

Having starred at Tuscaloosa's Central High School the last few years, Chris Harris didn't have far to travel to begin his college career. At 6-6, 230 pounds, he'll need to add bulk to compete in the SEC, but Eggen likes what he's seen. "Chris is your prototype defensive end," Eggen said. And he has surprised me with his aggressiveness and his fight. He has stood out in those areas being very aggressive. I'm real pleased with Chris."

When the newcomers reported last Sunday, Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione explained that one or more of the incoming freshmen D-Linemen would get a chance to play this season. And at 6-3, 275 pounds, Daphne's Jeremy Clark has as good a chance as any.

"I've been impressed with Jeremy's athleticism," Eggen said. "He runs very well and he works hard. He moves efficiently for a big man.

"There are several guys that we recruited that are athletic enough to be ends and yet in two or three years you may see them with the body type of a defensive tackle. Guys that are big enough to look like that but still athletic enough to play end--that's a bonus."

Speaking of defensive ends who may grow into tackles, Kyle Tatum has also been impressive in early work. At 6-6, 260 pounds, he'll need to add bulk to play on the inside. But it was as a defensive end that the Prattville star earned the reputation as the best defensive line prospect in the state. "Yes, I think Kyle has lived up to that (billing)," Eggen said. "Along with Ahmad, Kyle is a little further along in playing with proper pad level. Those two carry their pads very well for being big guys. Both of them come off the ball extremely low. I'm impressed with Kyle."

Chris Harris (# 91) lines up behind Jeremy Clark (# 99).

Both Tatum and Childress are impressively tall athletes. But defensive line is all about leverage. Whichever player gets under the other man's pads wins.

So is it possible to be too tall to play defensive tackle? "Too tall? That's not a problem," Eggen explained. "If you come off with good pad level, you can play any position. I'd like to see guys athletic enough to be interchangeable."

J.P. Adams is the only walk-on in the group, but the former Tuscaloosa County star is taking a back seat to no one. "He has surprised me," Eggen related. "If you looked out there and watched the drills, you may not be able to pick out a scholarship and a non-scholarship athlete. That's the type of athlete we're trying to get in here right, because of our limit on scholarships.

"I think his being here this summer has really made a difference for J.P. Coach Pollard was pleased with how he handled the summer workouts."

No one can predict the future, and freshmen linemen always need time to mature and add strength. But Eggen sees good things ahead. "I think they'll play a lot of football at Alabama. And I think they'll play a lot of winning football."

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