Alabama Football: 5 Names You Need to Know Before 2012 Season
The 2011 Alabama football team won the national championship with a roster filled to the brim with NFL-ready talent.
The list was a long one, including Trent Richardson (No. 3 overall pick), Mark Barron (No. 7), Dre Kirkpatrick (No. 17), Dont'a Hightower (No. 25), Courtney Upshaw (No. 35), Josh Chapman (No. 136), DeQuan Menzie (No. 146) and Brad Smelley (No. 247).
Despite all that talent leaving for the NFL, Alabama still ranks No. 2 in the USA Today Coaches Poll to start the 2012 season. There's still plenty of talent left over.
In the following slides, we'll take a closer look at five members of the Crimson Tide you should know better before the 2012 season.
RB Eddie Lacy
Maybe Lacy isn't the next Mark Ingram or Trent Richardson—Alabama running backs who set the bar high over the last two seasons—but that doesn't mean the Crimson Tide running game will fall off the face of the earth next season.
In two years of being mostly an afterthought, Lacy rushed for 1,080 yards. In both the 2010 and 2011 seasons, he had a rushing average of over seven yards and scored 13 times.
Lacy is very talented, even if he isn't at an elite level like Richardson or Ingram. He'll get the load of the carries now that Richardson is taking handoffs in Cleveland, and behind that offensive line, Lacy should put up big numbers by default.
NT Jesse Williams
Alabama has done well in producing NFL-quality nose tackles in recent years, with Terrence Cody and Josh Chapman topping the list.
Australian native Jesse Williams could be next.
Current draft projections have Williams rated anywhere from the third to fifth-best defensive tackle in the class of 2013.
Arguably one of the strongest players in college football, Williams started all 14 games for the Crimson Tide last season.
CB Dee Milliner
Not many outside the SEC will know of Milliner, but that's probably a good thing. He played behind first-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick but still developed into a reliable cover guy as Alabama's No. 2. Rarely was he considered a weak point for Alabama's historic defense.
He has a chance to step out of the shadows in 2012, and I don't see a reason why he can't. Nick Saban is as good a secondary coach as we have in college football, and Milliner should improve as a junior.
The Offensive Line
The big guys up front rarely get credit, but even fans outside of the Alabama area should get to know who the Crimson Tide throws out in front of its offense every week.
Three players stand out from the group.
Barrett Jones has experience playing tackle and as an interior lineman. He stands a good chance of being one of the first offensive linemen selected next April.
The same goes for D.J. Fluker, who may have the most upside of any tackle prospect available in the 2013 NFL draft. He should be a top pick.
Don't forget about guard Chance Warmack. He's a mauler inside in the run game and another candidate to be drafted high next April.
The Two Linebackers
If you don't know the names C.J. Mosley and Nico Johnson now, get familiar with them. You'll be hearing them a lot in 2012.
Mosley is one of the nation's finest interior linebackers, and he'll get a chance to shine next season with Dont'a Hightower out of the mix. This is Mosley's defense now.
Johnson is a terror in the run game, and he's in line to get a considerable increase in snaps in 2012 with Hightower and Upshaw gone. He has some blitzing ability too.
I'm not sure if Mosley and Johnson are on a Hightower/Upshaw level in terms of NFL draft status, but these two can play. The Alabama defense will go as they go.