The 2007 season predictions called for the defense to be Alabama’s weak spot, with the offense having to carry the load. However, the opposite was probably more accurate.
Rashad Johnson, who was clearly the best athlete on the defensive side of the ball last season, returns for a senior encore. He led the team with 94 tackles and led the league in interceptions as well with six, on his way to being named first team All-SEC.
Named a 2007 team captain, Johnson looks to wreak havoc once again in '08 as he was recently named to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list. And with more experience perhaps than anyone else on either side of the ball, look for Johnson to become the clear leader Alabama needs for their great, yet young and inexperienced incoming class.
A young group of guys struggled at times for the Crimson squad, with many new faces consisting of raw talent often leading the way.
Last year’s freshmen cast was directed by Rolando McClain, a freshman phenom at linebacker who was an instrumental key to the Tide’s success in several games, and also dominated the Iron Bowl, although in a losing effort. Look for this young man to continue his dominance on the field, accompanied by former running back turned linebacker Jimmy Johns.
Kareem Jackson, who was perhaps the second best defensive back for the Tide in just his freshman year, looks to become the heir apparent to Rashad Johnson. He has the talent, and with several games under his belt in his initial year at the Capstone, the Johnson/Jackson duo could be a dual threat to any team they face.
Prince Hall, linebacker, enters his junior year looking to build upon two very similar freshman and sophomore years. Often overlooked, this man poses a threat as was visible early in his career as he finished third in total tackles for the Tide in just his freshman season. Look for Hall to have a breakout season that could vault him to national status. Prince is currently on an indefinite suspension from the team and his future is currently unknown.
Ezekial Knight, senior linebacker, has had a long road to get to where he is. In his freshman season he filled the spot as backup receiver, hauling in a few great catches. In his sophomore season he converted to tight end where he improved upon his receiving abilities. His junior season ended early due to injury, at which time he received a medical redshirt. Knight's current medical problems are leaving is future in jeopardy as well. It is not known if he will make a recovery to come back and play 2008 or beyond.
As Coach Nick Saban stepped on the scene, he converted “Zeke” to linebacker, and no greater deed could have been done for this young man. He played a key role in the victory over Ole Miss due to his interception return late in the fourth quarter. Look for more impressive plays from Knight and for him to have a great senior season.
With depth added, playing time could be limited at the linebacker spot, which could be a good thing for this group by adding some time to revamp and provide a constant attack of fresh bodies coming off the sideline. Look for those at linebacker to be the surprise for the Tide’s defense.
Finally, the defensive line is looking to rebuild after losing one of its best leaders in Wallace Gillberry.
Lorenzo Washington, a junior who finished second in tackles from the defensive line, and Bobby Greenwood, a senior who has seen playing time in 37 games, will definitely be called upon to step up and apply the pressure on the opposing offenses.
Brandon Deaderick also has seen ample playing time and should add some experience to what I believe is Bama’s weakest spot on either side of the ball.
Overall, I look for the Crimson Tide to improve on defense under the helm of defensive genius Nick Saban, with the defense anchoring the team and keeping them in every game.