- Alex Scarborough, ESPN Staff Writer
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ATLANTA -- The Alabama 10 power rankings are back, with a look at who stood out in the Crimson Tide's season-opening 35-10 victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday night in Atlanta.
1. Christion Jones: Alabama wasn't great against Virginia Tech, but Jones was. What he accomplished was nothing short of historic, returning a punt, a kickoff and making a reception for a touchdown. He had more total yards (256) than either offense on Saturday night.
2. Vinnie Sunseri: All offseason he must have heard fans asking how Sunseri could start at safety over Landon Collins. Why would the supposedly less athletic option win out? We saw why against Virginia Tech when Sunseri showed his nose for the ball, intercepting a pass early and returning it 38 yards for a touchdown. He also finished fifth on the team with four tackles, again brining the complete package to the table.
3. Ed Stinson: Alabama's defensive line as a whole should get a gold star for the pressure it brought on Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas. But Stinson, the Tide's senior defensive end, played the best, leading the team with eight tackles. He only registered half a sack, but he defended the read-option beautifully and never broke containment.
4. C.J. Mosley: It was weird to look at a stat sheet and not see Mosley atop the defense in tackles, but that was the case on Saturday night. Mosley was mostly quiet on the football field against Virginia Tech. But quiet is his default setting. He wasn't first in tackles, but he was second on the team with seven stops. And more than anything his success is reflected in the defense's ability to hold the Hokies to a paltry 59 yards passing and 153 yards rushing.
5. Landon Collins: He didn't win the starting job at safety, but Collins showed no signs of being upset with the decision in the season opener. The talented sophomore played a good bit on defense off the bench, though his real impact came on special teams, where he was a one-man wrecking ball, keeping Virginia Tech's highly touted return game in check with five key tackles.
6. John Fulton: Fulton came into the season with something to prove, and on Saturday night he played like it. Chip firmly on his shoulder, Fulton played lockdown defense against Virginia Tech, helping hold Thomas to 59 yards passing. He got physical, too, finishing fourth on the team in tackles, one coming behind the line of scrimmage when he read run and attacked the tailback.
7. T.J. Yeldon: The usual running lanes weren't there, but Yeldon made the best of it, rushing for a respectable 75 yards and a touchdown. Give credit to Virginia Tech's swarming defense for keeping Yeldon in check. Bud Foster's group came to Atlanta determined to stop the running game, loading up with nine men in the box early and often.
8. Adrian Hubbard: Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart had to calm down an irate Hubbard on the sideline once during the game. Why? Because Virginia Tech grabbed his face mask and robbed him of a chance to stop the quarterback. The Hokies were doing anything and everything to slow Alabama's top pass-rusher on Saturday night. Hubbard came away with just a half-tackle for loss, but his impact was much greater.
9. Amari Cooper: It was unusual to see Cooper drop the football, but that's just what he did against Virginia Tech, missing a few well thrown balls from AJ McCarron. Whether that was a result of rust or the lingering effects of some nagging injuries is anyone's guess. But Alabama's go-to receiver still produced when his game wasn't at its best, hauling in a team leading four receptions.
10. Cody Mandell: When Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer previewed the Alabama matchup on the Monday before the game, he mentioned Mandell by name, marveling at his 44.3-yards-per-punt average from a season ago. On Saturday night, Mandell did him one better, averaging 46.4 yards per punt on nine attempts. Two were fair caught, four landed inside the 20-yard line and four went for more than 50 yards.
1dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough