Alabama defense

Swimming against the tide is difficult. Running against the Tide is even more so.

The Alabama Crimson Tide ranked No. 2 nationally in run defense last fall, allowing just 74.1 rushing yards per game. Moreover, it permitted just 2.7 yards per carry and a mere 5 rushing touchdowns in 14 games.

Incredibly, Bama's run defense could be even better in 2009 than it was in 2008. That's because most of the key components from last year's stop unit are back for another go-around this fall.

Foremost among these - in girth, as well as worth - is Terrence "Mount" Cody. The 6-5, 370-pound tackle basically fills two gaps all by himself. Cody registered just 7 solo stops last fall (24 tackles total) but four of the 7 were of the minus-yardage variety.

Returning at one end spot is Brandon Deaderick. If Cody is Mount, the 6-4, 287-pound Deaderick qualifies as a sizable hill. He registered 36 stops and 4 sacks last fall.

Bama also returns two of the SEC's biggest and best linebackers. Rolando McClain (6-4, 249) recorded 95 stops last fall, including 12 tackles for loss. Dont'a Hightower (6-4, 250) registered 64 stops as a freshman starter at weakside linebacker last season.

Although the Tide lost superstar safety Rashad Johnson to the NFL, the secondary outlook is bright, as well. That's because Bama returns two of the SEC's finest cornerbacks - Javier Arenas (5-9, 198) and Kareem Jackson (5-11, 192).

Arenas contributed 63 stops last season. Jackson weighed in with 44 stops and 10 pass breakups.

Arenas is even better as a return specialist than he is as a pass defender. He averaged 15.9 yards on punt returns last fall, hauling back three of them for TDs. He also averaged 23.6 yards on kickoff returns.

Bama's kicking specialists are solid. P.J. Fitzgerald averaged 41.1 yards per punt. Leigh Tiffin made 16 of 19 field-goal tries under 40 yards, just 2 of 7 kicks between 40 and 49 yards, but 2 of 3 of 50 or more.

Bottom line: The Tide run defense could be stouter in '09 than it was in '08. Opponents who plan to air it out against Bama, however, should know that the pass defense is pretty strong, too. Nick Saban's boys allowed opponents to complete just 52.7 percent of their attempts last season with almost as many interceptions (15) as touchdowns (18).

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