As any coach will tell you, defense begins with the defensive line. No matter how many gifted athletes play linebacker or in the secondary, without talented big men up front doing the grunt work, it's simply hard to win many football games.
This year the Tide has one of the most talented and deep lines in the nation, but it all begins with the three senior starters.
Defensive tackle Jarret Johnson (6-4, 287, 3VL, Sr., Chiefland, FL) is a two-time All-SEC selection, Jarret was named to the 2002 Outland Trophy watch list. The heart of the Tide defensive line, he has 32 tackles, 4 sacks (-29 yards), 3 TFLs (-9 yards) and 13 QB pressures on a unit that has held 6 of 9 opponents to less than 60 yards a game rushing. Oklahoma had minus 23 yards rushing against the Tide defense.
Jarret currently has 24 career tackles for loss, (-120), 22 career sacks (-180) and his 46 combined TFLs and sacks are third on the career chart. Jarret is a force on Tide defense that is ranked 2nd in the SEC and 2nd nationally in total defense. He has also forced 3 fumbles. Jarret was selected a team captain for the 2001 season.
Johnson's Career Totals: 168 tackles; 24 TFLs (-120); 22 sacks (-186), 55 QB pressures
A converted defensive end, Kenny King (6-5, 277, 3VL, Sr., Daphne, AL), handles the critical nose tackle position for the Tide. A second-team All-SEC pick in 2001, Kenny is also a two-time Academic All-SEC pick. He was a CoSIDA Academic All-District choice last year. Kenny was a preseason All-SEC pick and was also on the 2002 Outland Trophy watch list.
King is second on the Tide's all-time fumbles recovered list with 6. He leads all down linemen with 41 tackles, 3 sacks (-15) and 5 TFLs (-11), 12 pressures, 2 forced fumbles and one recovery. Bama's defense has held 6 of 9 opponents to less than 60 yards rushing, including Oklahoma's minus 23 yards rushing. Kenny had 8 tackles vs. MTSU, 7 against North Texas and his 5 TFLs lead the team.
King's Career Totals: 180 tackles; 24 TFLs (-78); 11.5 sacks (-79); 82 QB pressures
After suffering and recovering from an Achilles tendon injury earlier in his career, Kindal Moorehead (6-4, 304, 3VL, Sr, Memphis, TN.), is a fifth-year senior and four-year starter. A first-team All-SEC selection last season, Kindal was tabbed a second-team preseason All-SEC pick. The D-line trio has helped hold 6 of 9 opponents to less than 60 yards rushing, including minus 23 by Oklahoma.
After 9 games, Moorehead has 33 tackles, 4 TFLs (-8), 5 sacks (-40), a team-best 17 quarterback pressures, 2 PBUs, and one forced fumble. Kindal had 6 tackles against Oklahoma. He has combined with King and Johnson to hold opponents to a league-best 76.5 yards per game, also the NCAA's 5th best mark.
Moorehead's Career Totals: 144 tackles; 33 TFLs (-154); 21 sacks (-193); 63 QB pressures
Like the defensive line, Alabama's linebacking corps is both talented and deep. Bookend outside junior backers Cornelius Wortham and Brooks Daniels are playing excellent football, though fairly or not Daniels receives more attention.
Safety-sized, nevertheless Brooks Daniels (6-2, 205, 2VL, Jr., Jasper, FL) is a ferocious tackler from his Rover position. After getting 102 tackles last season, Daniels is on track to equal that number in 2002. He currently leads the Tide with 74 tackles and adds 4 TFLs (-7) and 3 sacks (-16).
Daniels has 8 career double-figure tackle games, including 16 in the season opener against Middle Tennessee and 11 against Georgia this season. He was named pre-season All-SEC.
Daniels' Career Totals: 190 tackles; 6 TFLs (-18); 5 sacks (-27)
If there is one player that epitomizes the defensive turnaround from struggling unit to dominance, it's Gerald Dixon (5-10, 192, 3VL, Sr., Burtonsville, MD). The most improved Tide defensive back this season, "Smoke" has 2 interceptions (10 yards) and a team-leading 8 pass break-ups. He also has 34 tackles and one quarterback pressure. He had 7 tackles against Oklahoma, 9 tackles against Arkansas and has now started 19 consecutive games.
Dixon's Career Totals: 148 tackles; 3 interceptions (10 yards); 22 pass break-ups
The Tide's defensive onslaught has been led principally by upperclassmen, but three youngsters have also played very well and definitely deserve consideration for All-Freshman squads.
Cornerback Charlie Peprah (5-11, 195, Fr., Plano, TX) is an athlete that the Tide coaches can build a defensive backfield around in future years. A starter in 7 of the Tide's 9 games, Peprah has turned in 34 tackles on the season. Against Georgia, he had 8 tackles and returned an interception 35 yards for a TD. Against Tennessee, he had 3 tackles and a 48-yard interception return.
For the season, Peprah has 34 tackles, one TFL (-1), 3 interceptions (90 yards) and one forced fumble.
Middle linebacker Freddie Roach (6-2, 238, Fr., Killen, AL) was one of several athletes last year talented enough to play as true freshmen. At the time watching from the sidelines was frustrating, but now Roach is glad he took the redshirt.
A solid 9-game starter at middle linebacker, Roach is the Tide's 5th-leading defender with 48 tackles, a team-leading 6 TFLs (-17), one sack (-4) and 4 quarterback pressures. He had a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown against MTSU. He also has one PBU and one fumble recovery.
Strongside linebacker DeMeco Ryans (6-1, 210, Fr., Bessemer, AL) is the only true freshman to see action for Alabama on defense. Praised by his coaches for both his athleticism and football smarts, Ryans picked up the defensive schemes, allowing him to get on the football field right away.
Although he has not started a game, DeMeco has played in every game, turning in 18 tackles and one TFL (-1). He also has one fumble recovery. DeMeco had 4 tackles each against Georgia and Ole Miss.
Larry White, Alabama's Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations, made a huge contribution to his report.