Converted defensive end Jesse Williams will be the Crimson Tide's anchor at nose tackle this season.
The true measure of worth for the players that line up on the interior of Alabama’s three-man defensive front cannot be identified looking at individual statistics.
Case in point, nose tackles Josh Chapman and Nick Gentry combined for 46 tackles, nine-and-a-half tackle tackles for loss and five-and-a-half sacks last season.
While those numbers are solid, they do not illustrate how both players were able to consistently control the line of scrimmage and enable the linebackers and defensive backs to play downhill.
Jesse Williams—who started all 13 games at defensive end last season—will slide over to nose tackle and give the Tide a powerful force that offenses will have their hands full dealing with.
But the real question becomes who will step up to provide depth behind him?
Sophomore Brandon Ivory and redshirt freshman Wilson Love both made progress in the spring, plus Saban will get his first look at four defensive line signees that could end up at defensive tackle.
In this latest look at individual segments on the Tide’s roster, the spotlight falls on the under-appreciated heroes of its stifling defense—the nose tackles.
Alabama signed four defensive line prospects in its top-rated 2012 recruiting class—with each bringing something different to the Tide’s group of defensive linemen.
While its still a bit of a mystery where each will ultimately end up, the four freshman— Korren Kirven, Dalvin Tomlinson, Darren Lake and Dakota Ball—are listed as defensive tackles entering their college careers.
With Williams entering his final college season, his eventual replacement could come from a member of this quartet.
However, it is also worth noting that there are a few of the Tide’s defensive ends that could slide over and play nose—like Williams did on occasion last year—if none of the true freshmen can step up immediately.
Love, the younger brother of former Tide offensive lineman Tyler Love, redshirted last season after signing with Alabama as a part of the 2011 class.
The 6’3”, 276-pounder enters fall camp after an impressive performance at A-Day, where he racked up three tackles and a sack.
Perhaps the most impressive part of his spring display was his combination of speed and power at a spot mostly associated with brute strength.
If he can build on the foundation he laid in the spring, Love could find the field often as a an option to spell Williams.
Ivory figures to have a much larger role heading into his third season on campus.
Ivory enters his third season in the Crimson Tide program with his best opportunity to make a significant contribution at nose tackle.
The 6’4”, 308-pounder appeared in four games (Kent State, North Texas, Vanderbilt and Georgia Southern) last season recording five tackles.
His calling card appears to be his ability to serve as a plugger in the middle—specifically against the run.
However, with a host of young players behind him that are anxious to move up the depth chart, Ivory has to step up to the plate to help give the Tide a force capable of providing quality snaps when Williams needs a breather.
Despite his limited experience at nose tackle, Williams is primed for a breakout year in his new role.
For those who questioned whether the 6’4”, 319-pound native of Australia is ready for his move to defensive tackle, Williams served notice to the nation when he benched a ridiculous 600 pounds last week.
NFL scouts and draft experts have already pegged Williams as a potential early pick in next year’s draft, in part because of the versatility he has shown in being able to excel at multiple spots on the defensive line.
While neither of these details guarantees that Williams will be a dominant force on the inside this season, the early returns on his position switch have been nothing but positive to this point.
The freakish talent appears primed to have a monster senior season and be a dependable anchor for Alabama’s three-man front—much to the delight of Crimson Tide supporters.