Defensive Line Has Possibilities
In addition to Cody, Alabama graduated starting ends Lorenzo Washington and Brandon Deaderick from last year's team.
The defensive line, ordinarily three-men in Alabama's 3-4 scheme, will have all new starters this season, but that doesn't mean the Crimson Tide coaching staff doesn't have a pretty good nucleus to work with.
The next step in the process of building a championship team takes place during spring football practice, which begins Friday, March 12. Alabama's 15th and final spring practice date will be the A-Day Game, which will be at 2 p.m. CDT from Bryant-Denny Stadium. ESPN will televise the event live.
Here is another in our series looking at each position as spring practice approaches. This is a look at the defensive line, which is coached by Bo Davis.
A good place to start the rebuilding is having the Most Valuable Defensive Player from Bama's national championship victory over Texas in the Rose Bowl. Marcell Dareus is a 6-4, 296-pound upcoming junior who is set to move up to first unit at defensive end.
Dareus had two huge plays in the win over Texas. In the first quarter, his tackle of the Longhorns' outstanding quarterback, Colt McCoy, knocked the senior out of the game with a shoulder injury. Just before the half, Dareus made one of the most memorable—and pivotal—plays in Alabama history when he picked off a mishandled football and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown, making a nice spin move along the way.
For the season, Dareus was in on 33 tackles, including nine for lost yardage and seven sacks. He had four quarterback hurries and broke up two passes.
Dareus was making an impression long before Pasadena. When he was a freshman, a newspaper reporter asked Washington what Dareus would look like as an Alabama senior. Washington didn't hesitate. "I don't think you'll see him around here as a senior," Washington said. This is likely the last college season for Dareus, which is how Alabama recruits these days—signing players who are so good they will head for the NFL after their junior seasons.
It bears repeating that our assessment of where players may be on a depth chart this spring is conjecture.
Dareus is not the only candidate for the end positions.
Senior Luther Davis (6-3, 275) has played in 34 games for Alabama in his first three seasons and has been involved in 26 tackles, including five for lost yardage. Senior Milton Talbert (6-4, 275) has seen less action.
Most of the interest in defensive ends is on those who have not played. Danien Square (6-3, 272-pound sophomore) was set to be a regular part of the rotation last season, but suffered a knee injury that kept him out of the 2009 season. He will participate in the spring.
Others in the mix are sophomore Glen Harbin (6-5, 257) and redshirt freshmen Darrington Sentimore (6-3, 280), Chris Bonds (6-4, 280), and William Ming (6-3, 260).
Josh Chapman knew he was in a tough battle for the starting job at nose tackle when Terrence Cody began to make waves early in 2008. "Even my grandmother is a Cody fan," Chapman said. Now Chapman, one of the team's strongest players, is one of the contenders to replace Cody. Chapman is a 6-1, 313-pound junior who has seen plenty of action. After being injured early in 2007 and getting a redshirt year, he has played in 26 games with 34 tackles, including three tackles in the national championship game win over Texas. He has been involved in seven tackles for loss and one sack.
It took Kerry Murphy a long time to get to Alabama, two years of prep school following his high school career at Hoover, but now the 6-4, 323-pound sophomore is ready to compete on the defensive line. He has enough ability that he has also been considered a possibility for defensive end and for offensive line.
One of the newcomers entering Alabama in January and ready to participate in spring drills is Brandon Lewis (6-2, 280), a transfer from East Mississippi Community College).
Junior Nick Gentry (6-1, 264) and redshirt freshman Brandon Moore (6-5, 310) are other candidates at nose tackle.
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