Alabama Football: Seven Players the Crimson Tide Will Miss the Most

Larry BurtonSenior Writer IDecember 21, 2011

Alabama Football: Seven Players the Crimson Tide Will Miss the Most

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    Larry Burton (Syndicated Writer) Alabama has a lot of players graduating, a lot leaving early to the NFL and some just moving on to other places. Of course, some will be missed more than others.

    Here's a look at the top seven people that Alabama's team, staff and fans will miss the most after this season concludes.

    As always, a list like this is subjective. And we would like for you to comment in the section below and let us know how you would have rated these people, as well as adding the ones that you felt were omitted.

    Thanks and enjoy.

Brad Smelley: Sr. Tight End to Graduation

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    Brad Smelley was one of those steady and reliable players that may not be a star to the media but is a star to his team.

    You could count on Smelley for good run-blocking and those tough third-down catches.

    The Auburn game proved just what an asset he was.

    Though fans may not put him on this list, I'm sure his teammates would.

Josh Chapman: The Man in the Middle

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    When Terrence Cody left Tuscaloosa, people thought the defense would never be the same.

    While he may not have had two game-saving field-goal blocks, his work overall has actually been better than what Cody did.

    He was more athletic, had a better pass rush and a lot more stamina.

    Chapman was Mr. Steady and one of the big reasons why the Tide led the nation in rush defense.

Mark Barron: Leader of the Defensive Secondary

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    Robert Lester had more interceptions, but Barron led the pack that played in the defensive backfield. He was a leader that led by example.

    Sometimes he should have taken himself out of the game with injuries, but he wanted to play. He didn't want his men out there without him.

    With a lot of young guns and no one really experienced to take his place, Barron will be missed greatly.

Dont'a Hightower: Leader of the Linebacker Corps

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    Some may argue that Hightower should be placed a lot higher on the list.

    I would agree. But the article is about the players that will be missed the most, and Alabama is full of great linebackers. That alone takes away some of the sting of losing such a great talent.

    The Tide will, however, need to have a new linebacker come forward with the leadership that Hightower provided.

William Vlachos: The Little Engine That Could

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    William Vlachos may not have been the most-important center at Alabama in the last 10 years if Nick Saban had been the coach a year earlier. He just didn't have the size that Nick Saban would have gone after. Mike Shula almost didn't either.

    But his gritty play and big heart won over Shula, and he offered Vlachos a spot.

    When Saban took over, he honored that offer.

    The rest is history.

    Vlachos, the shortest and lightest man on the offensive line, is also the one who does the most in the weight room and pushes the others to keep up with him.

    He doesn't just hold his own on the offensive line, he dominates his position.

    He will be missed as much for his daily inspiration as his leadership and play on the field.

Barrett Jones: Gone or Not? That Is the Question

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    Will he stay or will he go?

    That is the question that Bama fans would love to know right now about the big man who's played left tackle this year, guard last year and center in between.

    If he does leave early for the NFL, he will leave a big hole in the line, and like Vlachos, another great leader and motivator will be lost

    An All American at both positions, the Tide could actually use him next year at center.

Trent Richardson: A Running Back, a Mentor and an Inspiration

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    Without doubt, Richardson will be missed the most.

    Yes, Alabama has other great backs, but none that have shown the leadership, mentoring abilities and inspiration that Richardson brings to the team.

    While other backs may come close to his yardage, few will ever come close to the impact and meaning he had on the team and the total unselfishness he displayed in his career.

Marquis Maze: Receiver and Special Team Returner, Honorable Mention

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    Maze was the home-run threat every time he touched the ball, whether it was as a receiver, an end-around runner or special-team return-specialist.

    Maze was also a good tutor for the younger receivers, and he was durable despite his small size.

    He will be missed.

Jim McElwain: Offensive Coordinator to Head Coach, Honorable Mention

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    Being connected to the program as deeply as I am, I hear a lot of fans that are almost relieved that Jim McElwain is leaving for a head-coaching job.

    But the Tide's offense has been better under his tutelage than any other coordinator in many years.

    Depending on who the Tide gets to take his place and how things go, the fans may miss him a lot more later than they do today.

Courtney Upshaw: His Gritty Play and Drive Will Be Missed, Honorable Mention

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    Again, Alabama has a lot of linebackers, but few have the "mean streak" in them that Courtney Upshaw has. He plays like he has a chip on his shoulder.

    Though as a unit the Tide hasn't been a sack-making machine despite being the nation's No. 1 defense, when they did, Upshaw was usually in or around it, or at the very least forcing the QB to run to someone else who got the sack.

    Upshaw will be missed.


    (Larry Burton is a syndicated writer whose work appears online and in print. If you'd like to keep up with all his articles, follow him on Twitter and sign up as a fan on his profile page.)