Alabama: An Insider's Look

being a part of a great network, we love to use the resources available to us in order to better serve our subscribers. Knowing that, Kirk McNair has been affiliated with or covering Alabama football for over three decades provides the readers at Fightin' Gators with an insider's look at the Alabama personnel. Read on to see what to expect from the Crimson Tide in the big game on Saturday.


Quarterback: A.J. McCarron (6-4, 205)

Strength: McCarron has a excellent arm strength, mobility, and has shown an ability to make his read progressions and good decisions. He beat out an outstanding athlete in Phillip Sims for the starting job.

Weakness: McCarron is a third-year sophomore who was back-up to Greg McElroy for two years on teams that went 24-3, but McCarron did not see any meaningful playing time and lacks experience usually considered necessary for SEC competition. He has not had much success in vertical passing and ranks in the middle of the SEC pack in passing and pass efficiency.

Running Back: Trent Richardson (5-11, 224)

Strength: Richardson is coming off SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors for his play against Arkansas. He was sidekick to Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram for two years and is considered by many to be a Heisman Trophy candidate himself this year. He is backed by another big, fast tailback in sophomore Eddie Lacy (6-0, 220). Both rank in the top seven in SEC rushing.

Weakness: Mark Ingram is gone. With most defenses keying on Richardson, he has had times when he was bottled up.

H-Back: Brad Smelley (6-3, 229)

Strength: Smelley is very athletic, a former quarterback who is an excellent receiver and good move blocker in pass protection.

Weakness: Smelley is undersized for the tough inside blocking in the run game. In short yardage situations Bama is now bringing in former defensive lineman Brandon Lewis (6-3, 288), who is not a receiving threat.

Receivers: Marquis Maze (5-10, 180); Darius Hanks (6-0, 185)

Strength: Maze and Hanks are experienced receivers, the No. 2 and No. 3 wide receivers for Bama the past two years. Both have good hands and are good runners after the catch. Among the back-ups are speedsters Kenny Bell, DeAndrew White, and Christion Jones and veteran sure hands man Brandon Gibson.

Weakness: There is no Julio Jones in the Crimson Tide receiving corps. Jones, the big, fast playmaker and excellent downfield blocker, was a first round draft choice after last season. It hurt that JC transfer Duron Carter (6-4, 210), the former Ohio State starter, did not gain eligibility for this season.

Tight End: Michael Williams (6-6, 269)

Strength: Williams is an outstanding blocker, nearly an additional offensive tackle in run situations. He also has good hands with two touchdown receptions this year, including one against Arkansas from field goal formation.

Weakness: Williams is not used much as a receiver, although he had his first touchdown last year against Florida from wide receiver Maze, who lined up in wildcat. There is not much depth and almost no experience behind Williams at the on-the-line tight end position, which has meant Alabama has used very little double tight end offense.

Line: LT Barrett Jones (6-5, 311); LG Chance Warmack (6-3, 320); C William Vlachos (6-1, 294); RG Anthony Steen (6-3, 303); RT D.J. Fluker (6-6, 335)

Strength: Three-year starters Jones and Vlachos are pre-season All-America candidates and Fluker has been outstanding on both run and pass blocking in his second year as a starter.

Weakness: Guard play has been inconsistent, even though Warmack is a returning starter. Vlachos gets the job done, but he's smaller than a lot of top centers.

Coming on strong: Cyrus Kouandjio (6-6, 322) was the nation's top OL prospect last year and is being groomed to take the left tackle position and allow Jones to go back to his guard position.


Line: LE Damion Square (6-3, 285); NT Josh Chapman (6-1, 310); RE Jesse Williams (6-4, 319)

Strength: Very strong men are tough against the run and are adept at taking up a lot of blockers so that linebackers and safeties are unimpeded. Bama has outstanding depth with the likes of DE Quinton Dial (6-6, 294), DE Ed Stinson (6-4, 279) and pass-rushing NT Nick Gentry (6-1, 284).

Weakness: Although Bama gets a good pass rush from its front, there have been very few sacks.

Inside Linebacker: MLB Dont'a Hightower (6-4, 260); WLB Nico Johnson (6-3, 245)

Strength: Hightower is the leader of the defense, very good against the run and as a pass rusher off the edge. Johnson is solid on run defense.

Weakness: Alabama will be without the services of WLB C.J. Mosley (6-2, 234), who is considered Bama's best nickel linebacker, able to cover receivers and play the run. Mosley, who returned an interception for a touchdown against Florida last year, has an elbow injury. Johnson is not as strong in pass coverage.

Coming on strong: Trey DePriest (6-2, 242) was nation's top LB prospect a year ago and is showing up more and more on defense, in addition to being one of the special teams stars.

Outside Linebacker: JLB Courtney Upshaw (6-2, 265); SLB Jerrell Harris (6-3, 242)

Strength: Upshaw was hampered much of last year with an ankle injury, but when he was well he was a sack machine, leading to him being MVP of the Capital One Bowl with five sacks and a caused fumble. Harris is able to move into the nickel linebacker position.

Weakness: Harris came to Alabama with great promise, but has been limited primarily to special teams play until this year, his senior campaign. Alabama does not get many sacks.

Secondary: LCB Dre Kirkpatrick (6-3, 192); RCB DeQuan Menzie (6-0, 198); S Mark Barron (6-2, 218); SS Robert Lester (6-2, 210); N Dee Milliner (6-1, 196)

Strength: A recent NFL draft preview suggests for the first time in history three defensive backs from the same team will be taken in the first round – Kirkpatrick, Menzie, and Barron. Barron led the SEC in interceptions in 2009 and Lester led the SEC in interceptions in 2010. Menzie beat out returning starter Milliner, who has become the nickel back. All are excellent tacklers, so there aren't many Yards After Catch against them.

Weakness: Alabama has given up four touchdowns in four games and three of them have been passes.


Kickers: P Cody Mandell (6-4, 202); PK Jeremy Shelley (5-10, 165); PK Cade Foster (6-1, 216)

Strength: Shelley, the PAT and short FG man, and Foster, the long FG man, are very accurate. Mandell gets good hang time.

Weakness: Neither Foster on kickoffs nor Mandell gets great distance, so opponents often have good field position after Alabama kicks.

Returners: KR Trent Richardson (5-11, 224); KR-PR Marquis Maze (5-10, 180)

Strength: Richardson is a power runner, but with the speed to break a long return. Maze is the small, quick, elusive type. Maze had an 83-yard touchdown on a punt return against Arkansas and is the Tide record-holder with eight returns in one game (vs. Kent State). He is very sure-handed. Bama has 23 punt returns (most in SEC) and only six kickoff returns (least in SEC) this year.

Weakness: Alabama Coach Nick Saban has indicated he would prefer to not use offensive starters as his kickoff return men.

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