1992 Defensive Linemen Discuss '09

Alabama's defensive unit has been the force paving the way to 13 victories. The efforts have mirrored successful seasons in the past as the cornerstone of an Alabama national championship has frequently been stout defense. None was more celebrated than the 1992 collection of defenders which is why the memory of that group still reverberates throughout the program as the modern day gold standard.

'BAMA Magazine/BamaMag.com had the opportunity to speak to members of the 1992 Alabama defensive team and gather their thoughts, reflections and observations of the 2009 version.

Part I of IV – The Defensive Line

Football coaches categorically adhere to the maxim stating overall success is dependent on the defensive team's ability to stop the run. The 1992 Alabama trio of defensive ends John Copeland and Eric Curry along with nose tackle James Gregory contributed significantly to the Crimson Tide's nationally ranked number one rushing defense limiting opposing offenses to a 1.67 yard per rush average during that season.

Alabama is preparing for its final test of the 2009 season. Bama, 13-0 and ranked number one in the nation, will meet Texas, also 13-0 and ranked second, in the BCS national championship game on January 7 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

John Copeland just completed his third year as an Assistant Coach serving as the Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach at Tuscaloosa Academy.

Copeland's impressions of the 2009 UA defensive unit:

"I'm impressed. I think they have lived up to expectations. They still have a little something to prove, but the overall grade of the defense I would say they lived up to expectations."

Copeland's assessment of the 2009 defensive line:

"I hate to compare those guys. It's kind of not fair. We were pretty doggone good (chuckling). We were surrounded by great football players. They couldn't double us because we had so many different weapons and they couldn't just focus on two guys. I think if I look at that 1992 defense they mention the superstar caliber DBs we had – George Teague, Antonio Langham. Those guys we could play man-to-man, and we could do whatever we wanted to do up front because those guys handled their own business back there."

Copeland addressing the lack of a stud pass rusher:

"That's one area on this team, I think from the D-line perspective that they are hurting on. They don't get to the quarterback as often as we did. The thing about rushing the passer is you don't always have to sack the guy, but you should always be in his face. He should always have a lineman in his face. I don't think we're getting that enough.

"On the edges we do get it, but I don't think we get it enough. They have a good pass rusher in Eryk Anders. He's a heck of a pass rusher. I'm very impressed with him. He is not a big kid either. I'm impressed with the way he gets after the quarterback."

Copeland recognizing the standouts on the UA 2009 defense:

"You've got to like (Terrence) Cody, (Rolando) McClain and (Javier) Arenas. You know you're a good football player if the other team is trying to find you."

Copeland's opinion – Do you think they are good enough to win a championship?

"I think our defense is good enough to win a championship. They can't run the ball on us. Our defensive scheme in the secondary is second to none because we have the best coach in the game right now.

"As a team the only thing I see we have to get better at is our kicking game. We have to get better on our kick return coverage."

James Gregory resides in his native St. Louis, Missouri where for the last 12 years he has been employed as a Truck Loader for Wonder Bread/Hostess Cupcakes.

Gregory's impressions of the 2009 UA defensive unit:

"It kind of reminds me of the way we used to play. Watching McClain, you can see the way he controls that defense. It kind of reminds me how we had control of our defense when we played. They have a good group of guys out there. I really love that defensive line, and "Mount" Cody. Me being a defensive lineman and to see that big guy out there doing what he's doing just takes me back to those times when we were out there.

"They have a very tough defense. It reminds so much of the road we took to the national championship. They seem like they are in the offensive huddle. They have great defensive backs, linebackers and defensive line. It's a total package with their defense, and I love it.

"I love "Mount" Cody. That is my guy. Everything starts up front. You start at his level and just look at the next level (linebackers). I love (Rolando) McClain, and then the third level with Arenas. I love Arenas."

Gregory's thoughts on Terrence Cody:

"It sends chills down my spine especially when I saw that big guy get in there, and he made those two blocks against Tennessee. Just to see how excited he was. I was jumping up and down myself. To play that position you have to be a big physical guy, and that's what he is.

"He's a big guy that can move. Playing that nose guard position where he keeps those guards and center off of those linebackers, he lets them make plays. Every now and then he'll get you a big play too."

Gregory's assessment of the 2009 defensive line:

"Seeing those two ends come off the edge reminds of Copeland and Curry coming off the ball. Seeing "Mount" Cody in the middle reminds me of when I played. Marcel Dareus, he reminds me of John Copeland when I see him play."

Gregory's comparison of the 1992 and 2009 UA defensive teams:

"Until they win the national championship which I think they will, I would say the 1992 defensive team was great, and they are good. If they win the national championship, I will say they are great too. We were physical, and they are physical. We were smart, and they are smart.

"When we played the difference is this time we played against a Heisman trophy winner, so this time we'll be playing with a Heisman trophy winner and hope the results will be a lot different than it was when we played one.

"I just wish those guys good luck. I wish I could be there at the game to see those guys play, but I'm going to watch it on TV. I'm going to be cheering, and hopefully the Tide can roll which I think they will."

Eric Curry lives in Jacksonville, Florida. He is a Personal Trainer of athletes.

Curry's impressions of the UA 2009 defensive unit:

"They are the backbone of the team being successful this year. They keep McElroy out of trouble and allow him to play conservatively in a system where they win games."

Curry's opinion about the 2009 defensive line:

"They get a lot of pressure. They create disturbance back there. I don't think there are a whole lot of sacks going on, but quarterback pressures lead to turnovers. They seem to play well with each other. They have that cohesiveness which is more important than sacks. They have All-Americans surrounding them. Cody is a player that holds up the middle and keeps the interior line together."

Curry's thoughts on the 2009 offense:

"They have playmakers everywhere – number 8 (Jones) and Ingram. They have more talent (offensive) than we ever had in 1992, I promise you that. McElroy has talent and is playing within himself under the leadership of Coach Saban. They have a stellar offensive line.

"They have the freshman (Richardson) in the backfield from Pensacola. He's like a bowling bowl. He doesn't want to go down. He is relentless, and you have Upchurch off the bench. You have (Marquis) Maze and the tight end – all the pieces to the puzzle.

"You have a great, great football coach who is all about the players and winning. Now I don't know if they have the heart and will that we had to win a national championship."

Curry on standout defender:

"Marcel Dareus, he's explosive. He gets off the ball and when he smells that quarterback he pursues him. He doesn't waste any time or any motion. I'm sure the other defensive linemen feed off of that."

Curry's comparison of the 1992 and 2009 UA defensive teams:

"I have to start with the secondary. They (1992) were ball hawkers. I see a lot of these guys (2009) knocking the ball down and being disruptive, but we got to the ball and intercepted the ball. They (1992 DBs) got turnovers and scored. That is the difference I see in the secondary. The similarities I do see in the 2009 team (secondary) is they hit hard and they are scrappy.

Linebackers London, Hall, Oden and Rogers, they wanted to make the play before you made the play. They were bar room brawlers. They knew how to shoot the hole. I see the similarities in these linebackers. The one that stands out is McClain. I consider him another quarterback on the field. He's the one that has all the talent. He is definitely overwhelming when it comes down to football talent on the field.

"We had more than one or two field generals from the linebacking corps contributing. As far as the defensive line, we had myself and John. We were the book ends. We got quite a few sacks on everybody. They rely on hurries and getting the quarterback outside of the pocket and containment. We contained, and we knocked them down. We were more diversified in our talent. You knew that your quarterback and your running back were going to be in trouble for that afternoon."

Curry on the 2009 defensive team being considered in the same category as the 1992 defensive team:

"Since they defeated the Florida Gators and Tim Tebow in the SEC Championship Game, the next step is they have to win the national championship game."

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