Editor’s note: Each day between now and Alabama's date with Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship, we will review the season for a key Crimson Tide player or coach and attempt to project what’s next for him. Today we’ll look at right tackle D.J. Fluker.
No. 76 D.J. Fluker
Second team All-SEC selection
Role in 2012: Fluker was a mainstay at right tackle this season. Alabama ran behind the 6-foot-6 junior for many of its record 350 rushing yards in the SEC championship game against Georgia.
The good: The Foley, Ala., native was a force in the running game. When he got all of his 335 pounds going in the right direction, he created lanes as wide as the interstate. Fluker allowed just four sacks and missed on 11 assignments this season, according to Alabama. The University also cited his 30 pancake blocks and two penalties as a case for his All-America candidacy.
The bad: Fluker improved in pass protection as the season went on, but it was still the biggest and most glaring weakness of his game. He lumbered and looked heavy-footed against more athletic defenders. Georgia's Jarvis Jones and others had success getting Fluker on his heels and running right by him. It's part of the reason Alabama's offensive line, while being hailed as one of the best in the country, ranked a mediocre 53rd nationally in sacks allowed.
Crystal ball: It's likely we'll see Fluker selected somewhere in the first three rounds of the NFL draft this April. One report already claims the junior will turn pro a year early, and coach Nick Saban said earlier in the year that his right tackle was "a guy who's probably going to go out for the draft." He has the ideal height and weight to play tackle at the next level, but quickness could be an issue. Look for either sophomore Austin Shepherd or junior college commitment Leon Brown to be in the mix to take over for Fluker next year. Laremy Tunsil, an uncommitted five-star prospect from Georgia, could figure into the equation if he chooses to come to Alabama.