No less than five Bama linemen have been so honored, including Alonzo Ephraim, Jarret Johnson, Kenny King, Kindal Moorehead and Justin Smiley. ">
No less than five Bama linemen have been so honored, including Alonzo Ephraim, Jarret Johnson, Kenny King, Kindal Moorehead and Justin Smiley. ">

Tide down linemen honored

If pre-season awards and "watch lists" are based on potential as much as anything else, then the 2002 Crimson Tide will be "potentially" dominating along the line of scrimmage. <br><br>No less than five Bama linemen have been so honored, including Alonzo Ephraim, Jarret Johnson, Kenny King, Kindal Moorehead and Justin Smiley.

Three years ago Tide offensive tackle Chris Samuels won the coveted Outland Trophy Award, given to the top lineman in the nation. This season three Bama defensive linemen, Johnson, King and Moorehead, have been placed on that award's "watch list."

Only a sophomore, Smiley has a chance to be one of the most-honored linemen in Alabama history.

"You appreciate it," Moorehead said. "You want to be recognized, but you can't pay too much attention. You go out there and do what you need to do and just hope (individual honors) come."

King believes the designation is as much for longevity as anything else. "That's one of those awards that if you get hurt or you have a bad game, then you're off," he commented. "If you hang around long enough playing at a high enough level, then you could win. It's a challenge to be consistent and go out and try to be perfect. But if you win, you win, and if you lose, you lose."

Defensive Coordinator Carl Torbush is grateful to have the three senior linemen to lead his defense up front. "They're exactly what you're looking for," he explained. "They're outstanding football players who will graduate this year. And they're good people off the field. That's what you want to build your program around.

"It's a great compliment to them and the careers that they've had to date. It's a great honor for The University of Alabama football program."

Pictured during his junior season, Kenny King (#55) has played both end and tackle for the Tide.

The Lombardi voters are also considering three Tide linemen. Quick guard Justin Smiley joins Johnson and Moorhead on its list. Overlapping the Outland somewhat, eligibility for the Rotary Lombardi Award is limited to down linemen and those defensive players who line up within five yards of the football.

"It's an awesome honor," Smiley said. "I was kind of surprised when I saw it. I know my ability, but I also know that you're only as good as the guys around you. I've got four of the best offensive linemen in the country playing with me. They can strengthen your chances."

The other Tide linemen are all seniors, but Smiley is only a sophomore, entering his second year as a starter. "I couldn't believe it when I saw it," he said. "It's definitely humbling. You wonder if you deserve this, especially at this point in your career. I'm still not proven. I've done some good things, but I've got two older guys (Ephraim and Marico Portis) that play beside me that are very deserving.

"I'm thankful for the honor, and maybe in my senior year I'll have a chance of winning it."

Ephraim is one of the nation's top centers.

Johnson ended last season All-SEC, and the Tide coaches are touting him for All-America honors this year. "Of course you appreciate it and it's kind of overwhelming," Johnson said. "But focusing on (individual honors) during the season can only hurt you in games. It's a big honor, but it's not something I want to focus on now."

"I never imagined this when I arrived here four years ago," Johnson continued. "My goals were to try to contribute early and maybe be starting by my junior or senior year. I've passed all the goals that I've ever set."

Senior center Alonzo Ephraim also made last season's post-season All-SEC list, and he's been named to the Rimington Trophy watch list for 2002. Awarded to the top center in the nation, winning the Rimington would be a great honor. But right now Ephraim honestly can't be bothered. "I'm not really thinking about it that much," he said. "It's just recognition of how hard we've worked as a team. When the team does well, they start looking for seniors to nominate. As long as we do well together as a whole, everything else will fall into place."

Moorehead has been a four-year starter at Alabama.

Ephraim sounded a theme that was echoed by the other Tide linemen. He's going to take this season game-by-game and let individual honors take care of themselves. "I just feel like I'm an extension of my team," Ephraim said. "Being on that list means my whole team is on it--including the scout team. We work hard, and those guys have to work hard against us.

"To me it's a blessing. It signifies good things for the whole team."

Moorehead summed up the five linemen's attitude.

"We've got to focus on the team and not individual things. We've got to focus on team goals, because we won't be up for (individual honors) if we're 0-13. If we do what we've got to do as a team, then all the individual awards will follow."

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