Alabama Football: 10 Best Players on the Crimson Tide's '11 Roster
The Alabama Crimson Tide come into the 2011 season with high expectations, and rightfully so. The 2010 Crimson Tide were a bit disappointing in some eyes although they did win 10 games, many thought they had the talent to win a second-straight title.
So far the 2011 offseason has been one of tragedy, first on April 27, many Tuscaloosa natives lost their homes and in some cases even their lives due to a tragic tornado that struck our great city, and on May 12, recent Alabama enrollee Aaron Douglas lost his life as well. Tuscaloosa has always been a resilient city and that will be tested more than ever in the upcoming months and years to follow.
This fall, many will turn to the Crimson Tide Football team as a source of hope and a way to ease some of the minds of those affected by the terrible tornadoes. You can guarantee that these Crimson Tide will do all they can to help bring a championship back to Tuscaloosa.
Here are, in my opinion, the 10 guys that will have the biggest impact on the Tide's upcoming season.
Close but Not Quite
With Nick Saban's recent dominance in recruiting, cracking the top-10 list at Alabama is no easy task. Alabama is so loaded that there are players in back-up roles that could be stars on other teams in the NCAA. That being said when recruits put on that Crimson Tide cap, or however they go about announcing they're coming to play for coach Saban, they all have one thing in mind and that's a national championship.
DeMarcus Milliner CB- Milliner was the first person out of my top-ten. Although it was tough to leave him out, his coverage was somewhat of a liability at times in 2010. Milliner had 55 tackles with four of those being for a loss. He also recorded one interception.
Eddie Lacy RB - I personally think Eddie Lacy will be a stud during his career at Alabama. However I'm not 100 percent sure he's going to get the carries he needs to show that in 2011. Trent Richardson will without a doubt be the workhorse in 2011, but Lacy figures to get the bulk of the carries after that. He showed great promise in the Capitol One Bowl with two touchdowns on eight carries with 87 yards and he looks to build on that in 2011.
A.J McCarron/Phillip Sims QB - The main question throughout the Tide's spring is who will be under center when the Tide takes the field at 11:20 on September 3 against Kent State. All signs right now point to McCarron being the front runner, but Sims is not out of it by any means.
McCarron is the only one with game experience. In 2010 he threw for 389 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Although Alabama will almost certainly be a run-first team in 2011, whoever wins the starting quarterback job will still play an important role in the offense.
10. Marquis Maze WR
Marquis Maze will enter the 2011 season as the Tide's number one option at receiver. The only question being will A.J McCarron or Phillip Sims be the one getting him the ball. Maze had 557 yards on 38 catches along with three touchdowns in 2010. However that was while being the second option to recent sixth overall pick Julio Jones.
Maze was also the Tide's primary punt returner with 21 returns for 267 yards, giving him an average of 12.7 yard a punt. He also had eight kick returns for 189 yards, which put him at a 23.6-yard average.
Many thought Maze might be the next Tyrone Prothro for the Crimson Tide, but he has yet to live up to that hype. Maze definitely possesses the speed, and at 5-foot-10 180 pounds, is able to maneuver his way out of the way of defenders. With a solid year in 2011, many think that Maze could be selected in the top three rounds of next year's NFL draft.
9. William Vlachos C
William Vlachos will be entering his senior season in the fall, and expectations have never been higher. Vlachos was voted to the second-team All SEC in 2010, and is almost everyone's choice as the preseason first team All-SEC center in 2011.
Vlachos has been officially named to the 2011 Rimington Trophy watch list as the nations top center. Vlachos helps anchor an Alabama offensive line that enters the 2011 season as the most experienced in the SEC.
Vlachos will be entering his third year as a starter, and will be counted on highly for his experience. Hopefully his experience will be key in protecting a new quarterback and a run-heavy offense for the Tide in 2011.
8. Robert Lester S
Robert Lester was the Tide's leader in interceptions in 2010 with eight. That number was also good enough for second in the nation. He also added 52 total tackles and one sack. Lester will be entering his junior season in 2011, and looks to be one of the Tide's top secondary players.
At 6-foot-2 210 pounds, Lester is a hard hitter at the safety position. Lester was voted to the second team All-SEC in 2010, and looks to build off of that in 2011.
The future is bright for Lester, who will be a key part of the Crimson Tide's defense in 2011. Alongside Mark Barron, Lester helps make up one of the best safety squads in college football.
7. C.J. Mosley LB
C.J. Mosley was one of, if not the biggest surprise for the Crimson Tide in 2010. Mosley was third on the team in tackles with 67. He added one and a half tackles for loss and a half of a sack, not too bad for a freshman. Not to mention he added an interception for a touchdown against Florida.
Mosley was part of the Freshman All-American team in 2010, and looks to build on that success in 2010. Mosley also had 12 tackles against Mississippi State in 2010, which was the most recorded by any member of the Tide in a game last season. At 6-foot-2 235 pounds, Mosley combines his great size with excellent quickness giving opposing teams nightmares.
Dont'a Hightower said last year that he sees more of Rolando in Mosley than he does himself. With comments like this, it's no wonder Mosley has the Alabama fanbase psyched to watch him play for years to come.
6. Dre Kirkpatrick CB
When people in Tuscaloosa hear the name Dre Kirkpatrick one word comes to mind, and that word is swag. The Crimson Tide's top cornerback finished the 2010 campaign with 53 tackles; four of those for a loss, along with three interceptions. Kirkpatrick was also voted to the All-SEC second team by the league's coaches.
Coming in at around 6-foot-3 190 pounds, Kirkpatrick is a speed demon in coverage. Kirkpatrick was the No. 1 rated corner in the 2009 recruiting class, and many believe that if he enters next year's NFL Draft he will be the first corner selected, as well as in the top-ten overall.
Having a full year of starting experience under his belt will be key in Kirkpatrick's development as a top corner in 2011. The pressure for Kirkpatrick to preform will be huge this season but with this guy, the sky is the limit.
5. Courtney Upshaw LB
Courtney Upshaw had a breakout season in 2010 to say the least. He recorded 52 tackles, led the team in tackles for loss with 14.5, and sacks with seven. He was also named MVP of Alabama's 49-7 beatdown of Michigan State in the Capitol One Bowl.
Upshaw will be entering his senior season for the Tide, and will be a headache for every offensive coordinator 'Bama faces in 2011.
Upshaw went a bit unnoticed in 2010, but that sure won't be the case in 2011. With Dont'a Hightower being the main focus of opposing offenses, Upshaw had the luxury of going up against single coverage a lot of the time, but it's hard to believe that will be the case in the fall.
Many regard Upshaw as a first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, and will see his name on many preseason All-SEC, and All-American teams. If Upshaw is able to build off of his 2010 success with a productive offseason, he may very well find his name on some of the same postseason teams as he surely will in the preseason.
4. Barrett Jones OL
Barret Jones has been a force to be reckoned with at right guard for the past two years, however that might change a bit in 2011.
Jones is expected to make the shift to left tackle in his junior season. Jones is regarded by many to be the best offensive lineman in the SEC for the upcoming season, which is saying a lot.
Jones comes in at 6-foot-5 and over 310 pounds. However, Jones' physical attributes are not his most impressive, he is regarded by many as one of the smartest football players they have ever been around. He backed that up by being selected to the 2010 Academic All-American Team. Jones was also a third team All-American and second team All-SEC selection in 2010.
Jones is sure to crack almost every preseason All-American list in 2011, and will definitely be in the running for several postseason awards. Jones also looks to be one of the top lineman chosen in the 2012 NFL Draft should he leave school a year early.
3. Mark Barron S
Mark Barron enters his senior season with the Tide rehabbing a torn pectoral muscle suffered against Auburn. He's also coming off an arrest in March, however, that seems like it will be a non-issue in the fall. Many thought Barron might dart for the NFL, but with the injury he realized it would be hard for him to improve his draft stock, instead returning for his senior season at the Capstone.
Barron led the Tide in 2010 in total tackles, amassing 75. He also added three tackles for loss, two sacks and three interceptions. The most valuable part of Barron's game in 2010 didn't show up on a box score however, and that was his leadership. Barron was the only returning starter from the national championship squad with any real experience, and he was instrumental in helping teach some of the younger guys the techniques and the system.
Barron was an AP second team All-American in 2010, and should be in contention for first team honors in 2011. At 6-foot-2 and about 220 pounds, Barron is a physical freak. He can fly on the football field and many coaches have said that he is the most athletic person that they have ever seen. Barron should contend for the Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back again in 2011, and could be a very busy person come awards season.
2. Dont'a Hightower LB
Linebacker Dont'a Hightower is coming off an impressive 2010 season, which he spent part of getting back to 100 percent from a torn ACL. Hightower was second in total tackles with 69 and three and a half tackles for loss. It was apparent early in the season that Hightower wasn't quite back to 100 percent, but he returned to his old form the later part of the season.
Coming into 2011, many consider Hightower to be the top linebacker in the country and for good reason. At 6-foot-4 260 pounds, Hightower is a giant, and he has great speed for his size as well making him an all-around threat.
Hightower finished the 2010 season by being voted to the All-SEC second team. Hightower is definitely capable of besting that in 2011. Many have been waiting for Hightower to step in and be the dominating force that Rolando McClain was. Although he showed signs of promise last year, with a full off season at full strength 2011 may be the year that he finally makes the transition in to one of the game's greats.
1. Trent Richardson RB
Was it really ever in doubt that Richardson would be No. 1? Trent will be entering his junior year at the Capstone, and it will be his first year as a true starter.
In 2010, Richardson rushed for 700 yards with 6 touchdowns in a back-up role. Not too shabby considering he was injured part of the year as well. He also turned in two games with over 100 yards. Against Penn State he racked up 144 yards on 22 carries and one touchdown, filling in nicely for Mark Ingram who was out with a knee injury. Against Tennessee, Richardson was at it again gaining 119 yards on only 12 carries with one touchdown, all while being the No. 2 back for the game. Richardson also had 634 kick-return yards and one score on the year, averaging over 26 yards a return.
Richardson has shown nothing but promise since arriving in Tuscaloosa, and has almost become something of a folk hero. Trent's max on the bench is listed at 465, but he says that the training staff keeps cutting him off and he could easily do more. Pretty impressive for a guy that's not quite six feet tall and weighs around 225. Not only is he one of the strongest players on the team, he also runs a blazing 4.37 40-yard dash.
Although Richardson will only be a junior, he still has pro scouts drooling in anticipation. Almost every draft scout has Richardson as their No. 1 running back on their 2012 board, and many have them in their top-10 overall, which is rare for a true running back.
With Richardson's unbelievable combination of strength and power, many believe that if he can stay healthy for the duration of the season that he could possibly bring back a second Heisman Trophy to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
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