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August 29, 2012

Defensive line has a lot of depth

TUSCALOOSA | Sometimes it is easy to overlook a rock - until its removal leaves a hole.

Josh Chapman was a virtual boulder in the middle of the 2011 defensive line for the University of Alabama, and replacing his run-stopping mass will be a key for the 2012 team as it rebuilds its defense. But while productivity isn't measured on a scale, Alabama does have plenty of talent, some experience and size - lots of size - returning on the defensive line.

UA is expected to build up front with three veterans, all of whom (regardless of program weights) probably tip the scales at 300 pounds and up. Jesse Williams, the team's strongest player and one of its more popular members because of his Australian roots, is expected to slide over from defensive end and assume the nose tackle position vacated by Chapman.

Williams started all 13 games for UA last season, recording 24 tackles, including four behind the line of scrimmage.

"I thought Jesse played really well last year," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said earlier this month. "Early on, we were really concerned about his instincts and we really focused on repetitions with him. But Jesse is a very smart guy, very prideful, a hard worker. It's important for him (that he) get it right. He has improved dramatically since last year. Now he is a little different position, moving over to nose tackle. So far in camp, he has really done a great job.

"He can be a guy who can really affect the game up front."

Flanking Williams will be Damion Square, a senior with 19 career starts, including 12 last season, and junior Quinton Dial, who played occasionally last year after spending the 2010 season in junior college.

Square notes that Alabama has depth as well, even if some of the names - Jeoffrey Pagan, D.J. Pettway, Ed Stinson and others, along with a group of talented
freshmen - don't fall into the household category just yet.

"We've got a lot of depth," Square said. "We are eight-deep at some positions. I know it is hard for the coaches to decide sometimes who is going to get the maximum reps. But it is sort of secret. A lot of people don't know about those guys, so they are sort of overlooking us."

Saban agreed, saying that the defensive line has several good players.

"The one place on our team where we have some depth is the defensive line," Saban said. "We have the three (Williams, Dial and Square) plus Ed Stinson, Pagan and Pettway, who all played a little last year and have developed. Plus our freshmen D-linemen all have bright futures here."

The freshman group includes Darren Lake, the former Sumter Central standout, as well as Dalvin Tomlinson, Korren Kirven and Dakota Ball.

"I think they will all play at some point," Saban said.

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