Alabama Football: Power Ranking the Crimson Tide's Defensive End Unit
For a team looking to fill significant voids at linebacker and in the secondary, the wealth of experience returning on the defensive line is a haven for Nick Saban’s defense this season.
In particular, the depth at the defensive end segment is strong enough to withstand the move of senior Jesse Williams—who started all 13 games last season as a 5-technique defensive end—inside to nose tackle.
With Alabama running the 3-4 alignment, the 2012 edition of the Crimson Tide will feature a trio of upperclassmen who all played a role in helping the 2011 defense lead the country in rush defense, pass defense, total defense and scoring defense.
Seniors Damion Square and Quinton Dial, along with junior Ed Stinson will make up the foundation of a formidable unit that should remain stout against the run and the pass.
Meanwhile, a promising group of pass-rushers from the 2011 class are ready to step up and give Tide fans a glimpse of what is in store for the future of the position.
So what can Crimson Tide fans expect from the defensive end group in 2012?
Find out in the latest positional breakdown of the Tide’s roster.
7. The Unknown
Alabama signed five defensive linemen in their 2012 class, with all of them listed as interior players coming from the prep level.
While it’s hard to imagine all of them ending up as nose tackles at the Capstone, figuring out which players could move to one of the outside trench spots is a shell game at this point.
Meanwhile, a pair of veterans—juniors William Ming and Chris Bonds—have bounced around with both having experience working at outside linebacker and defensive end.
Thus far, both players have mainly contributed to the scout team, and a stacked depth chart makes it appear unlikely for either to make a significant contribution this season.
6. D.J. Pettway
Pettway was a 4-star recruit from the 2011 class that redshirted last season.
The Pensacola (FL) native has added nearly 20 pounds since enrolling at Alabama, and now checks in at 6’2”, 272 pounds.
Pettway showcased his pass-rush ability by recording 16 sacks as a high school junior.
Although his opportunities may be limited due to the depth in front of him, Pettway—who is versatile enough to play inside on passing downs—appears to have a bright future ahead of him.
5. LaMichael Fanning
On a roster filled with freakish athletes, few Tide players can top Fanning in passing the eyeball test.
At 6’7”, 298 pounds, the redshirt freshman possesses all of the necessary physical traits to become a dominant pass-rusher.
Like Pettway, the seasoned depth in front of him may limit his chances to find the field this fall, but he could gain enough playing time to help him get his feet wet at the college level.
Fanning recorded a quarterback hurry and a tackle for loss in the Tide's A-Day spring game.
4. Jeoffrey Pagan
Of the 2011 defensive end signees, Pagan was the only one to play last season recording four tackles and appearing in six games.
The 6’4”, 285-pound sophomore appeared to make a significant jump in the spring by becoming one of five freshmen to earn the Ozzie Newsome Most Improved Freshman Award—with four tackles and two sacks in the spring game helping his cause.
He enters fall camp with a firm grip on the backup spot behind Square—which means he figures to be an important part of the Tide’s rotation at defensive end this season.
3. Quinton Dial
Dial is in a battle with Stinson for the starting nod opposite Square, with the competition sure to continue when fall camp opens next week—but regardless of the outcome, the former JUCO import will figure prominently in the Tide’s rotation at defensive end.
The 6’6”, 304-pounder played in 12 games last season as a backup, recording 19 tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack—and followed up with a strong spring, notching five tackles and a sack in the spring game.
His size on the outside gives Alabama a wide body that will be a force against the run and the pass.
2. Ed Stinson
Stinson arrived in Tuscaloosa four years ago as a 6’4”, 227-pounder with a frame that seemed more suited for him to play outside linebacker—which is where he lined up as a redshirt freshman in 2010.
Fast forward two years later, and Stinson now checks in at 282 pounds and he appears to ready for a breakout season after adjusting to his new size and position.
Possibly the best pure athlete in Alabama’s defensive end unit, his combination of athleticism and pass-rushing ability make him an intriguing player to monitor for Tide fans this season.
The fourth-year junior played in all 13 games last season, recording 19 tackles, five tackles for loss, one sack and a forced fumble.
1. Damion Square
Square has been a mainstay along the defensive line over the last two seasons, starting in 18 of Alabama’s last 25 games and recording 59 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and four sacks in that period.
Perhaps even more so than his play on the field, the 6’3”, 286-pounder’s true value this season may be his role as a leader on a young defense.
As one of two players to receive the Mal Moore Leadership Award following spring practice, Square is a dependable player that is capable of staying on the field as a three-down defensive end.
With a nice mix of size, young talent and experience, the Crimson Tide’s defensive end unit could be one of the best groups in the SEC as well as nationally.