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Insider

Alabama: Midseason awards

10/17/2012

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama coach Nick Saban won't do it, so we will. Midseason grades simply aren't his thing.

"I don't really grade them," he said. "I just focus on things we need to do better."

So, while Saban focuses on the next opponent, we at TideNation will take a few moments to look back at the past six games and hand out some awards marking the halfway point in the season.

Most valuable player

Offense: AJ McCarron has taken his game to another level in 2012 and has led the offense to new heights. His 12 touchdowns and no interceptions is just one way of illustrating his command of the offense this season.

Defense: C.J. Mosley is on pace to finish among the top 100 nationally in tackles, something no Alabama player has done since Saban's arrival in 2007. His sideline-to-sideline speed and ability to cover in space has been a powerful tool in Saban's arsenal on defense.

Special teams: Carson Tinker doesn't have numbers to point to. No long-snapper does. But when you gauge the improvement of the special teams as a whole -- kicking, punting and coverage -- it comes back to the senior who leads the unit.

Most improved

Offense: Kevin Norwood came back from the offseason conditioning program looking like a new man -- stronger, leaner, more determined. It's shown on the football field where, despite a nagging ankle injury, he's become a sure-handed possession receiver, coming in second on the team in receptions.

Defense: Ed Stinson has quietly become the team leader in tackles for loss this season. The junior from Homestead, Fla., is two tackles away from his total from last year and has already surpassed his season-high for tackles for loss and sacks.

Special teams: Cade Foster doesn't even kick the same this year. He's shortened his approach on field goals and showed a different attitude in all areas of the game, converting on 67 percent of his field goal attempts and sending more than half of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.

Most underrated

Offense: Barrett Jones is the face of the offensive line, so it's hard to call him underrated. But for what he does for the offense, he doesn't get enough credit. He's transitioned seamlessly to center and provides valuable leadership for the team as a whole.

Defense: Jesse Williams doesn't get the numbers. A nose guard in a Saban-run defense never will. But his ability to eat up blocks and hold the point has created opportunities for others.

Top surprise

Dee Milliner stepped into his job as the starter this season without so much as a hiccup. Overnight, he's skyrocketed to arguably the top cornerback in the country, leading the nation in passes defended.

Top freshman

T.J. Yeldon has been everything as advertised, and more. He's had the look of a premier tailback from Day 1 and has played like it as Eddie Lacy's backup, showing great vision, burst and power. Consistently people ask whether No. 4 is indeed a true freshman because he already has the look of a seasoned starter when he's carrying the football.

Most outstanding player

McCarron's numbers are unseemly. His 171.88 passing efficiency rating is good enough for fifth in the country and he's setting a school record for the most consecutive pass attempts without an interception every time he throws the ball.