Tide defensive line looking for new man in the middle
by Michael Casagrande
Mar 23, 2012 | 8581 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TUSCALOOSA — Over and over, the defensive lines of the SEC were viewed as the difference between the league and outside competition.

They’re simply dominant in this part of the country. Win the point of attack and championships will follow. And they have.

Alabama returns almost every lineman from arguably its most complete defense in generations. But it’s the heart of that group that the Crimson Tide is replacing this spring. A powerful nose guard must demand double teams for the 3-4 defense to work as designed.

Josh Chapman graduated after two years in that role. So did his speedy, pass-rushing backup Nick Gentry. Able fill-ins, though, remain.

Rising senior Damion Square is the veteran of the line. Just don’t look at him to fill the middle of the formation.

“No, I am not that guy,” the defensive end said. “I play on the edge … I play wherever they need me to play. But have another set of guys who are trying out at nose.”

Through three spring practices, a few leaders appear to be emerging.

Jesse Williams, a starting defensive end last season who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 319 pounds, is taking reps at nose guard with the first team. Sophomore Brandon Ivory (6-4, 308 pounds) is also in the mix after filling in for Chapman (6-1, 310) when a knee injury kept him from the Georgia Southern game.

Redshirt freshman Wilson Love (6-3, 276) and true freshman Alphonse Taylor (6-5, 340) also lined up at nose guard in the portion of Wednesday’s practice open to reporters.

Square said they’re “all big, massive guys” competing for the job. That won’t necessarily be this unit’s identity moving forward, however.

“Yeah, we are very big. We are very big, very athletic, though,” he said. “We have some athletic guys this year — I’m not saying the guys we have before weren’t athletic — but these guys pretty much all around the ball we have guys who can play any position up front and get it done. It’s a great group of guys when you have a center like that on the d-line.”

Middle linebacker C.J. Mosley will line up behind the new nose guard in the 3-4 Alabama defense. He likes the mix of young guys and experienced vets competing for jobs while noting there’s plenty of time separating this team from its first live action.

“Just like the whole defense, we’ve got to get our communication together so we can get our defense ready for next season,” Mosley said. “But it’s just the spring. We’ve got a long way to go.”

Offensive lineman Chance Warmack, who returned from a groin injury this week, sees little drop off in the players he faces across the line in practice.

“Bunch of young guys, real energetic, ready to play,” he said. “Older guys teaching them — Damion Square, Quinton Dial, Jesse Williams — they’re doing a good job at that. The defensive line is looking real good.”

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