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August 15, 2012

Notebook: Dickson looks to step up

TUSCALOOSA | Xzavier Dickson isn't Courtney Upshaw, and isn't trying to be, either.

The University of Alabama sophomore is competing at the former Alabama star's position of Jack linebacker, and is well aware that Upshaw's production last season was among the key factors for the Crimson Tide's national championship defense.

But emulating others isn't Dickson's style.

"I just try to play to my potential and try to get better and better," Dickson said. "... Courtney was a great player. I just try to do what I do best."

Dickson noted that both Upshaw and former UA linebacker Alex Watkins were integral in his development as a freshman, teaching him the importance of practicing at a high intensity. Dickson played sparingly as a true freshman, making three tackles while appearing in seven games as a reserve.

In 2012, his role could be much larger if he makes the most of his preseason opportunity. And it doesn't hurt to practice his pass rushing against a pair of preseason All-SEC offensive tackles.

"(The offense) has great offensive tackles," Dickson said. "D.J. Fluker and Cyrus (Kouandjio), they push me to make me go hard and teach me new things every day."

Senior Damion Square said the importance of replacing Upshaw at a critical position is not lost on the rest of the defense.

"He's stepping up. He needs to step up. A very great guy played the position last year," said Square. "Xzavier knows the shoes that need to be filled at that position. The position is very important on our defense to make a lot of plays. Xzavier is stepping up and filling in that role to the best of his ability."

Dickson, of Griffin, Ga., learning the Jack position along with several other younger players, including Adrian Hubbard and Anthony Orr.

Courtney Upshaw he's not, but that doesn't mean Xzavier Dickson isn't just what the 2012 Alabama defense needs.

"(I) tell them to be their own guy. You were recruited to be you," Square said. "Come in and be you and be the best you that you can possibly be to contribute to this team. Coach didn't recruit that guy to come be somebody else. He recruited him because he liked what he does."

Vogler working on special teams
Alabama tight ends typically draws plenty of special teams duty for the Crimson Tide, and sophomore Brian Vogler is looking to contribute in that way as well as the offense.

"I'm trying to learn field goal, everything," he said. "With a tight end, that's the position. You play special teams. So, special teams is a main focus for me, as well as the offense. I'm doing a little more special teams."

As for his offensive role, Vogler said he has practiced at both the H-back position and the Y-position, which indicates the tight end on the line of scrimmage. The H-back typically receives more passes and is involved more in pre-snap motion.

McCarron on SI cover
UA quarterback AJ McCarron has been selected for a regional Sports Illustrated magazine cover for the publication's annual college football preview, to be released next week. It will be the 10th time Alabama football has been on the SI cover since 2009. McCarron's cover will be distributed in the South, while other cover subjects will be featured in other parts of the country (USC's Matt Barkley in the West, West Virginia's Geno Smith in the East, Michigan's Denard Robinson in the North and Oklahoma's Landry Jones in the Southwest).

"It's kind of a talent overload, man. ... You go out there on the field for practice and you're like, 'Who is going to do this or do that? What guy is going to separate from the pack?' ... When I first got here, it was pretty distinct who the guy was. The next guy was somewhat close and then it was a dropoff. Now, we got eight guys at one spot that can just go. ... I know as coaches it's pretty difficult to choose what guy is going to get the majority of reps and that's why." - Senior Damion Square on Alabama's defensive depth.

Quotable II
"We tell him he's spending too much time on the defensive side, not showing us enough love. And he'll fire back with something like he doesn't want to hang out with offensive linemen because they are fat and not athletic." - Barrett Jones on the good-natured banter between coach Nick Saban and players during the team's stretching period before practice.

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.

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