Fans and coaches have been excited about Trey DePriest since he first committed to the Tide and though he had a great true freshman year we will have to wait to see what he can do as a full-time starter.
As a highly touted linebacker out of Ohio expectations have been high for DePriest and many are predicting that he will earn a starting role this season.
To be fair, the term "starter" is a loosely used term for Alabama, especially on defense. Players are swapped early and often to keep faces fresh for the final push in the fourth quarter.
With that being said, a starter is still a starter. They are the players who will see the most reps during game time.
DePriest is clearly the future field-general linebacker for the Crimson Tide, but for the time being he will be spending a bit more time on the sideline.
The reason for this is the fact that Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley are both incredibly efficient in their roles.
If Dont'a Hightower weren't on the roster in 2011 both of these players would have been starters. Now that he is gone the choice to make them both starters is painfully obvious, regardless of how talented some up-and-comers may be.
Johnson is one of the best run-stuffing linebackers in the nation and was rivaled only by Hightower himself.
It wasn't just one season of production that makes this clear as Johnson has been a solid contributor since the 2009 season and was an integral part of both championship runs.
His "weakness" is in pass-coverage, but he filled that role well when Mosley was out with a dislocated elbow for a couple weeks.
As for Mosley, he could arguably be the best coverage linebacker in the nation who also has the brains and muscle to work in the box as well.
Mosley is a great talent and I would be surprised if he sticks around for his senior year. Bleacher Report's lead NFL Draft writer Matt Miller has him going in the first round of the next draft. Maybe it's a stretch, but I'm inclined to believe it.
Nick Saban was placed in a strange situation in 2010 and 2011 when he had the services of both Mosley and Johnson. They seemed to be the perfect complements for each other but he was forced to split time between the two due to Hightower's presence.
These two linebackers will be the most experienced available to Nick Saban in 2012 with Johnson being the most experienced player on the entire defense.
They both have what it takes to lead the Tide to the promised land and for the moment there just isn't enough room on the roster to start Trey DePriest.
DePriest will get plenty of playing time as he learns how to become a leader, but for the time being fans should get used to the idea that the dynamic duo of Mosley and Johnson are here to win games.
What it really comes down to is experience and leadership. Even Dont'a Hightower didn't feel comfortable as a leader in 2010.
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