This is the most ferocious group of defensive players I have seen on the team at one time, in my life. The 2009 defense was the reason we won the NC, as was the 1992 defense, and of course they have to prove it, but I think this one has a chance to continue that tradition
The front seven includes 7 or 8 linebackers that could start for any team in the SEC and most any team in the country. Donta Hightower, Courtney Upshaw, Jerrell Harris, Tana Patrick, Chris Jordan, CJ Mosley, and Adrian Hubbard were ALL 4 star recruits coming out of high school. Nico Johnson and Trey DePriest were 5 star recruits. Anthony Orr, Jonathan Atchison and Senior Alex Watkins are all above average players at this position, who would probably see significant time at most other SEC schools. Linebacker is my favorite position, so I will be a happy guy watching this group bust heads this fall
The secondary was an early liability in 2010 due to having 3 new starters, one of which was a true freshman, but that group is experienced now and is easily the best in the country. It is led by safety Robert Lester, who led the SEC in interceptions with 8 last year, and safety Mark Barron who led the SEC in interceptions with 8 in 2009. If that's not enough, you have the No.1 rated corner in the 2009 recruiting class, Dre Kirkpatrick on one side, and the No. 1 rated corner in the 2010 class, Dee Milliner on the other. DeQuan Menzie, who wasn't even a starter last year, had the best spring of all the corners and could challenge Milliner for his spot. Dre is going to be one of the best in the country, and probably a high first round draft pick if he has the kinda year I think he will. Behind these guys, you have John Fulton, Jabriel Washington, and Phelon Jones, all of whom were top recruits as well. Recruiting rankings only take you so far, and you still have to be that player in college that you were in high school but I am using these numbers to show just how stacked we are in talent.
If there is a weakness in the Alabama defense, it is one that could cost us if it is not improved this year: The lack of a pass rush. Coach Saban likes to point out that pure sack numbers are not how you judge a pass rush, that it's all about "affecting the quarterback". And while this is true, it cannot be overlooked that we were not at the top of the league in getting to the QB last year. Even though our secondary can hold their own and our linebackers can cover also, if we give QBs 5 or 6 seconds to look around it is going to kill us.
That said, I have alot of confidence in guys like Ed Stinson coming off the side. I think that we are going to do much better this year in getting to QBs. I think Upshaw and Hightower coming from the LB position can do a good enough job that our numbers will increase. Personally, I'd kinda like to see Hightower move to Defensive End. We certainly have the LBs to make up for losing him and he would be a terror if he could just come off the end all game long. I think Nico could take his role pretty easily, just as he did in 2009 when Hightower went down with a knee injury. Then you could have Mosley, Upshaw, and Harris all on the field at the same time. That idea excites the hell out of me. Nevertheless, I will trust the coaches to make the right personnel decisions.
This group is not without hype. It has the chance to be the most decorated defense in the country.
The Thorpe Award is given to the nation's best defensive back every year. Lester, Barron, and Kirkpatrick have ALL made the preseason watch list
The Bednarik Award is given to the most outstanding defensive player in the nation every year. Barron, Hightower, Kirkpatrick, Upshaw, and Lester are ALL on the list
The Lott Trophy, for best defensive impact player, has Barron and Hightower on their preseason list
The Bronko Nagursky Award, for best defensive player, also has Barron, Hightower, Kirkpatrick, Upshaw and Lester on their list
The Butkus Award, for the nation's best Linebacker won't release their preseason list until later in the week, but I'm sure Hightower and Upshaw will be on that list
I would certainly hate to be an opposing player trying to gain yards on these boys this fall.