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Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Crimson Countdown: Darren Lake

By Alex Scarborough

During the summer, TideNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Alabama roster -- excluding the Tide's 2013 recruiting class -- in our Crimson Countdown series. Starting with No. 1 Dee Hart, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 99 Brandon Ivory

No. 95 Darren Lake
Sophomore defensive lineman

Expectations for 2013: He wasn't supposed to play in 2012, but depth concerns forced the staff's hand. Lake, the raw three-star prospect from the small town of York, Ala., came off the bench to provide a big body and a breather to starting nose guard Jesse Williams. As a true freshman, Lake registered three tackles, playing in eight total games. With Williams now gone to the NFL, Lake is likely to rise from third to second on the depth chart where he'll back up projected starter Brandon Ivory.

Best-case scenario: We're just now getting a feel for Lake's talent. Coming from such a small program out of high school, he was behind both in terms of physical maturity and understanding. He worked with the strength and conditioning staff to trim some fat and actually add 9 pounds over the past year to get to 324. Rooming with 385-pound offensive lineman Brandon Hill helps, too. The two are constantly on one another to eat right. If Lake stays in good shape, he'll be the force in the middle Alabama's defense needs, stopping the run and eating up blockers so his fellow teammates can run free.

Worst-case scenario: When Lake realizes his potential is anyone's guess, though, as it takes much more than just a big body to do the job of a nose guard in coach Nick Saban's system. Mastering footwork and studying the finer points of the technique in the trenches will be vital to his development. Learning under and battling Ivory for playing time over the next two seasons should help in that respect. He must stay healthy, though, as his number could be called at any time given the rigors of playing on the line in the SEC.

Future impact: Both Lake and Ivory will be pushed this fall and next season as a pair of incoming freshmen learn the ropes in Tuscaloosa. A'Shawn Robinson, the 320-pound prospect from Texas, and Darius Paige, the 314-pound signee from South Alabama, are two four-star recruits who have high ceilings for development.