A broken record. That is the only phrase that comes to mind when I hear the constant taunting and misinformed arguments directed toward the defense of the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide.
Such phrases include questioning if the loss of so many starters, including six of the front seven, can be overcome enough so that Alabama can repeat as national champions.
Further, I have even heard that starting quarterback Greg McElroy, who is undefeated as a starter on both the high school and collegiate levels, including both SEC and national championships, should even be considered “good” among other college quarterbacks.
Those questioning the latter are beyond aid. There is no remedy to heal those who inflict stupidity upon themselves.
Sure McElroy had a great offensive line and supporting cast of running backs, tight ends, and receivers, but he was also a leader for his team throughout the season. He made several key plays in the SEC Championship Game, and he did his part to put Alabama in positions to win games.
For those reasons, and more, no one honestly looking at him can dispute that he is everything a coach could have desired in a first-year starter.
As for the former, I direct all of the naysayers to the following.
First, it seems as if no one can remember that just two years ago the Tide lost most of its starters on defense. In fact, only four starters returned from the 2007 season. Yet when you look at the 2008 season, seven new starters stepped up and helped propel ‘Bama to an undefeated season and the top spot in the polls for the first time since 1980 during the regular season.
If the coaching staff at Alabama was able to do that in 2008, then why could it not be repeated this fall?
Next, those spewing words without considering the facts have quickly overlooked the reality that many returning players had significant playing time during the 2009 season, and some even during the 2008 season. In fact, many of those returning played as often as every other play in a system designed around depth and rotation of players in an effort to dominate opposing offenses.
That being said, an evaluation of some of the returning defensive players seems appropriate and necessary.
Mark Barron, junior defensive back, has lettered for two years at the Capstone. As a sophomore Barron led the SEC in interceptions, was tied for first in the SEC with passes defended, and was the second leading tackler on the team.
Another junior, defensive lineman Josh Chapman, has seen significant playing time in a rotating roll with Terrence “Mount” Cody. Chapman has done a superb job filling in the middle and is another one of the many household names, particularly among the Tide faithful. If you are looking for the middle to crumble with Mt. Cody gone, you had better reconsider.
Next, looking through the alphabetical roster, is junior defensive lineman Marcell Dareus. Dareus’ play speaks for itself, and unless you’ve been hiding under a rock or are newly informed on college football, you already know of the terror he caused last season, particularly in the national championship game, and during the spring.
Senior Luther Davis has been rotated throughout the previous three seasons on the defensive line. He has spent his career under the reign of coach Nick Saban and should be as educated and prepared as anyone on the team. His time in the system going through “The Process” should prove invaluable as a leader for new guys such as Chris Bonds, Brandon Moore, Anthony Orr, and Darrington Sentimore.
Robby Green is yet another of the defensive players returning for a shot at a second national title in as many years. The junior defensive back from New Orleans has provided solid play since his freshman season. In fact, he is among those such as Chapman who have become household names. His previous two years’ experience will be greatly needed and seen this fall.
Jerrell Harris and Dont’a Hightower are both junior linebackers that wreak havoc for opposing offenses as much as anyone. The loss of Rolando McClain is great, but the void will be filled by these two, as well as Nico Johnson, who saw significant playing time when Dont’a went down with an injury early in the ’08 campaign.
Then you have Phelon Jones, the defensive back who has transferred from LSU. The Mobile, AL native should add even more depth to the corps of defensive backs who look to pick up just where last year’s team left off. Add in Dre Kirkpatrick, the No. 1 cornerback from the 2009 signing class, and you have the ability to shut down the outside game as well as any other defense in the nation.
Courtney Upshaw, the junior linebacker who stepped up last season, particularly toward the end and in the national championship game, will be back for more pounding action with Jerrell, Dont’a, and Nico.
Throw in the highly touted redshirt freshman linebacker Tana Patrick, a 6'3", 231-pound beast from Bridgeport, AL, and Chavis Williams, a senior who was originally fitted for the SAM linebacker position when Saban came to T-Town, and you have an all-star lineup of linebackers.
Finally, you have Rod Woodson, a sophomore defensive back who saw significant playing time in 2009 that will be back for a chance to repeat as well. Woodson provided solid play last fall and will continue to improve and shut down receivers this fall as well.
Those are just a few of the terrorizing beasts ‘Bama has ready to come back this season on defense, some more experienced than others, but all capable of starting for any defense in the SEC or anywhere in the nation. Moreover, many in this group are at an NFL level already and should be high on the radar of NFL scouts for the 2011 draft, particularly Dareus and Hightower.
I could go on and on. I could mention the list of incoming freshmen who have yet to report or be seen on the collegiate level. I could mention how freshman players have been thrown in the mix and have stepped up to provide just what the Tide has needed over the past two seasons.
I could even throw in the fact that Coach Saban has seemed at ease and confident of where his team stands—something that has not always been there.
Likewise, I could throw in the fact that all of those who failed to buy into the system have been weeded out and that “The Process” has become the norm.
But I’ll let their play and the coaching abilities of the great Alabama staff display what is already known by the Tide faithful.
If you think the Tide will drop off on defense this season, be careful. The same was said about the 2008 defense.
Add in an offense that is a lethal threat at any point on the field, and you have a team that is setting the bar high once again for the 2010 season.