Alabama Crimson Tide: Jeremy Shelley

Editor’s note: Every Tuesday and Thursday between now and national signing day, TideNation will review each position and look at who figures to start, who could rise up the depth chart and who might be on the way. Today we’ll look at the specialists.

The 2012-13 season is in the books. There are no more position battles to be won and no more jockeying for position in the battle to become the most valuable player for Alabama. Now we can look back and evaluate who were the best athletes to suit it up for the Crimson Tide this season.

1. LG Chance Warmack: If NFL scouts and general managers can recognize it, so can we. Warmack -- yes, a guard -- was the best player on the football field every time he suited up, and not just because of the captivating half-shirt he wore all year revealing his rather large belly. A national television audience saw just how dominant he could be against Notre Dame, as he was in on nearly every key block to spring Alabama's 265 yards on the ground. Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te'o was neutralized largely because of Warmack's efforts getting to the second level. The All-American left guard will likely go early in the first round of the upcoming NFL draft, leaving behind a legacy few can touch.

2. QB AJ McCarron: Speaking of legacies, McCarron has already sealed his. He's the only quarterback to repeat as a national champion and he holds the all-time passing touchdowns record at Alabama. All that with a year of eligibility remaining. The junior from South Alabama took a major step forward as a quarterback and as a leader this season. He finished just 77 yards shy of 3,000, completed better than 67 percent of his passes and threw a whopping 30 touchdowns to three interceptions to lead the country in passing efficiency. The scary thought? Just how good he and an improved receiving corps can be next season.

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Editor's note: Every day from now until kickoff in Miami, TideNation will break down the match-ups position-by-position. Today we'll look at the battle of the special teams.

Cade Foster
Patrick Green/Icon SMICade Foster has been more accruate on his long field-goal attempts this season, but Notre Dame seems to have the placekicking advantage.
Alabama: If there's an area Alabama improved the most dramatically from a season ago, it was on special teams in the kicking game. Cade Foster, who was maligned for much of last season for missing three field goals against LSU, showed off a much stronger leg his junior year. He made four of nine field goal attempts, including three of five from 50 or more yards. That confidence bled over to kickoffs, where he had 37 more touchbacks than a season ago. He and short-range specialist Jeremy Shelley, who made all 11 of his field goal attempts, gave Alabama a piece it had previously been missing -- a safety net when the offense couldn't punch the ball in from scoring range.

Punter Cody Mandell experienced a renaissance as well. The junior from Texas increased his yards per punt and went from two punts of 50 or more yards in 2011 to 12 this season. More importantly, he landed six more punts inside the 20-yard line.

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- A look at the good and the bad from No. 1 Alabama's 29-24 loss to No. 15 Texas A&M at home on Saturday night.

THREE UP
1. Rushing attack: When Alabama needed it most, the running game came through. With Texas A&M ahead big in the first quarter and the Alabama offense seemingly lost, coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator turned to the running game. Alabama pounded the ball one play after another with Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon to get its first touchdown of the game and continued to work off the run to score again before halftime.

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Five storylines: Alabama at LSU 

November, 1, 2012
11/01/12
11:37
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU has the longest home winning streak in college football. Nobody competes with Nick Saban better than Les Miles. And it's a night game at Tiger Stadium.

Yet, there is an air of pessimism that sort of envelops the excitement around LSU with No. 1 Alabama coming to town.

The Crimson Tide are favored by 9-1/2 points over the Tigers and few are expecting an LSU team that is young to be able to compete. Here are five storylines to watch:

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Alabama Awards Tracker: Week 8

October, 23, 2012
10/23/12
7:15
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Each week at TideNation we'll take a look at how Alabama's players up for postseason awards fared in action. All told, 12 Alabama players were put on watch lists this offseason.

QB AJ McCarron, Jr. (Maxwell, Manning, O'Brien, Camp): Not even a knee injury is slowing down Alabama's junior quarterback. He went into Knoxville and threw for a career-high 306 yards.

[+] EnlargeNico Johnson
Tim Heitman/US PresswireNico Johnson continued his steady play against Tennessee.
RB Eddie Lacy, Jr. (Maxwell, Walker): He didn't finish the game as the leading rusher, but the moves Lacy put on against Tennessee caught the attention of all who saw.

TE Michael Williams, Sr. (Mackey): Williams isn't going to wow anyone with receiving yards, but when he catches the ball, he's effective. Of his 10 catches, two have gone for touchdowns.

C Barrett Jones, Sr. (Rimington, Outland, Lombardi, Walter Camp): Jones went up against one of the biggest nose guards in the country in Daniel McCullers (6-foot-8, 380 pounds) and didn't give up a single sack or tackle for loss.

G Chance Warmack, Sr. (Outland, Lombardi): Each and every week Warmack stands out on the field and later on tape. His play against Tennessee was no different.

RT D.J. Fluker, Jr. (Outland, Lombardi): Alabama was able to keep McCarrron upright for the most part and the running game was effective. Another win for the line as a whole, especially Fluker who continues to do better in pass protection each week.

CB Dee Milliner, Jr.: (Nagurski): There he was again in Tennessee -- finishing with another pass breakup and ending the game near the top of the team in tackles.

LB Nico Johnson, Sr.: (Nagurski, Lombardi): Johnson's role expanded some against Tennessee but the more teams use three and four wide receivers, the more Johnson is hurried to the sideline in favor of the nickel package.

LB C.J. Mosley, Jr.: (Nagurski, Lombardi): Alabama's biggest playmaker on defense did not disappoint in Knoxville, leading the team in tackles and coming up with a key interception.

S Robert Lester, Sr.: (Thorpe, Nagurski, Bednarik): Lester might have saved the day for Alabama, turning the momentum on a key interception in the end zone against Tennessee.

DT Jesse Williams, Sr. (Outland, Bednarik, Bronko Nagurski, Lombardi): Williams held the point and the Alabama line held Tennessee to less than 80 yards rushing.

K Jeremy Shelley, Sr.: (Groza): It's been a slow and steady climb for Shelley, who converted on a 34-yard field goal attempt to continue his perfect season splitting the uprights. He has made all eight field goal attempts.

Alabama Awards Tracker: Week 7

October, 16, 2012
10/16/12
7:30
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Each week at TideNation we'll take a look at how Alabama's players up for postseason awards fared in action. All told, 12 Alabama players were put on watch lists this offseason.

QB AJ McCarron, Jr. (Maxwell, Manning, O'Brien, Camp): McCarron had a season-low 171 yards passing and no touchdown passes against Missouri, but the main takeaway might be his health after twisting his knee in the third quarter.

RB Eddie Lacy, Jr. (Maxwell, Walker): It took one carry for Lacy to show why he's one of the most explosive backs in the country, taking the handoff on the second play from scrimmage and sprinting 73 yards for the score against Missouri. He finished with 177 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

TE Michael Williams, Sr. (Mackey): Williams was shut out of the passing game yet again, but give him credit for his impressive blocking in the running game.

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Christion JonesJohn David Mercer/US PresswireChristion Jones' kickoff return touchdown against Mississippi was another example of the resurgence Alabama has seen in its special teams thus far.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- With Alabama on the bye week, it's time to take a breather and examine how well the Crimson Tide have played through the first five games of the season. Their record and ranking are both perfect, but there's still room for improvement.

Today, TideNation will grade the defense and special teams. Yesterday we tackled the offense.

FIELD GOALS

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Alabama Awards Tracker: Week 5

October, 2, 2012
10/02/12
7:14
AM ET
Each week at TideNation we'll take a look at how Alabama's players up for postseason awards fared in action. All told, 12 Alabama players were put on watch lists this offseason.

QB AJ McCarron, Jr. (Maxwell, Manning, O'Brien, Camp): McCarron set a school record for consecutive pass attempts without throwing an interception, breaking a mark perviously held by Brodie Croyle.

RB Eddie Lacy, Jr. (Maxwell, Walker): The junior tailback had his most carries of the season against Ole Miss, rushing the ball 19 times for 82 yards.

[+] EnlargeShelley
AP Photo/Dave MartinJeremy Shelley made all three of his field goal attempts against Ole Miss.
TE Michael Williams, Sr. (Mackey): Williams was shutout again on Saturday against Ole Miss, finishing the game with no receptions.

C Barrett Jones, Sr. (Rimington, Outland, Lombardi, Walter Camp): As the miscues on the offensive line are slowly repaired, give Jones credit. Alabama allowed just one sack to Ole Miss on Saturday night.

G Chance Warmack, Sr. (Outland, Lombardi): Warmack dominated the interior of the line against Ole Miss which consistently brought eight men in the box to stop the run and pressure McCarron.

RT D.J. Fluker, Jr. (Outland, Lombardi): Fluker moved around well and kept the more athletic Ole Miss edge rushers at bay, something he had struggled with in recent weeks.

CB Dee Milliner, Jr.: (Nagurski): They finally threw at him, and they finally paid. Milliner had an interception and four pass breakups against Ole Miss, with an assist on a sack just for good measure.

LB Nico Johnson, Sr.: (Nagurski, Lombardi): Johnson has been a steady force at inside linebacker, finishing Saturday's game with four tackles.

LB C.J. Mosley, Jr.: (Nagurski, Lombardi): Mosley continues to stand out in space, covering from sideline to sideline and dropping back in coverage. He led the team with 10 tackles against Ole Miss.

S Robert Lester, Sr.: (Thorpe, Nagurski, Bednarik): There hasn't been much opportunity to make plays in the passing game, but Lester had his first interception of the season against Ole Miss on Saturday night and finished the game with two tackles.

DT Jesse Williams, Sr. (Outland, Bednarik, Bronko Nagurski, Lombardi): If you're looking for big numbers from Williams, you're looking in the wrong place. The nose guard has held the point well and allowed others to rack up the stats.

K Jeremy Shelley, Sr.: (Groza): Shelley got the most work he has all season against Ole Miss, going a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals Saturday night.

Second look: Bama 33, Ole Miss 14 

September, 30, 2012
9/30/12
4:56
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- After roughly 24 hours of digestion, analysis of No. 1 Alabama's 33-14 win over Ole Miss:

On offense …
Ole Miss was not going to allow Alabama to run the ball effectively. The Rebels put eight men in the box most of the night and dared AJ McCarron to throw the football.

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama trailed for the first time all season when Ole Miss scored a touchdown early in the second quarter, but the Crimson Tide answered with two quick scores and held off the Rebels to win 33-14 Saturday night.


The offense looked efficient but not outstanding. The Tide never hit on the big play they’ve become accustomed to this season. Still, it was a coming-out party for freshman wide receiver Amari Cooper, and quarterback AJ McCarron was sharp yet again for the Tide.

Alabama’s defense gave up 218 yards to the Rebels’ up-tempo offense, but it continued to force turnovers with three interceptions. On the season, the Tide have forced 15 turnovers while giving the ball away just three times.

It was over when: Leading 30-14 in the fourth quarter, Alabama put the game away with a 13-play drive that resuled in a 24-yard field goal from Jeremy Shelley. The drive took more than six minutes and eliminated any chance for an Ole Miss comeback. Eddie Lacy started it with a big run, and Coooper made two key catches to convert on third down.

Game ball goes to: When wide receiver DeAndrew White went down with an injury in the first quarter, Alabama needed somebody to step up in his absence, and Cooper answered the challenge. The freshman wide receiver finished with eight catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Cooper’s performance shows how deep the Tide’s wide receiver corps is this year.

Stat of the game: McCarron passed Brody Croyle’s Alabama record of 190 consecutive pass attempts without throwing an interception when he connected with Brent Calloway on a short pass in the first half. McCarron finished 22 of 30 for 180 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He now has 206 consecutive pass attempts without a pick.

Unsung hero: Starting cornerback Deion Belue never returned from the locker room for the second half due to a shoulder injury, but he made his presence felt in the first half. Belue had five tackles, including one for a loss, and one of the Tide’s three first-half interceptions. His loss was a clear blow to UA’s defense, as Ole Miss moved the ball better in the second half.

What it means for Alabama: The nation’s No. 1 team had its moments. McCarron continued to be efficient. The defense gave up yards but forced turnovers. Even the special teams got a lift from Christion Jones’ 99-yard kick return for a touchdown. Still, it wasn’t a flawless game. The biggest thing to take away might be the injuries, though. No word yet on the severity, but both White and Belue left the game.

What it means for Ole Miss: The Rebels came into the game as a heavy underdog, but they weren’t intimidated by the hostile environment or the opponent. Ole Miss hung with the Tide throughout the game and put together quite a drive in the third quarter against Alabama’s defense. More than anything, the game should give Ole Miss confidence as it dives into SEC play.

Alabama Awards Tracker: Week 4

September, 25, 2012
9/25/12
7:30
AM ET
Each week at TideNation we'll take a look at how Alabama's players up for postseason awards fared in action. All told, 12 Alabama players were put on watch lists this offseason.

QB AJ McCarron, Jr. (Maxwell, Manning, O'Brien, Camp): McCarron continued to play efficient football on Saturday, getting the ball into his receivers hands quickly against FAU and letting them do the rest. He finished with three touchdowns and no interceptions, extending his streak of games without throwing a pick.

[+] EnlargeWarmack
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesChance Warmack continues to dominate opponents.
RB Eddie Lacy, Jr. (Maxwell, Walker): It's safe to say Lacy is back, and in a big way. He looked like his old self again on Saturday, breaking the 100-yard rushing mark before halftime.

TE Michael Williams, Sr. (Mackey): Williams got off the schneid against Florida Atlantic, pulling in a single-game high four receptions.

C Barrett Jones, Sr. (Rimington, Outland, Lombardi, Walter Camp): There were a few mental mistakes on a first half drive, but give Jones credit for his body of work, helping the running game which featured four backs averaging more than 6 yards per carry.

G Chance Warmack, Sr. (Outland, Lombardi): Warmack continues to be the best lineman on the field each and every week.

RT D.J. Fluker, Jr. (Outland, Lombardi): Fluker moved around better against Florida Atlantic than in weeks past and didn't allow a sack.

CB Dee Milliner, Jr.: (Nagurski): Quarterbacks are beginning to look at Milliner, and quickly look away. Florida Atlantic didn't test Alabama's best cornerback on Saturday.

LB Nico Johnson, Sr.: (Nagurski, Lombardi): Johnson was notably absent on defense against FAU, failing to register a tackle despite dressing out and playing some on special teams.

LB C.J. Mosley, Jr.: (Nagurski, Lombardi): Mosley has been a quiet force on the defense, once again leading the team with six tackles on Saturday, including an assist on a sack.

S Robert Lester, Sr.: (Thorpe, Nagurski, Bednarik): Lester missed an interception opportunity against Florida Atlantic, but was able to make plays, coming off the edge for a sack on Saturday.

DT Jesse Williams, Sr. (Outland, Bednarik, Bronko Nagurski, Lombardi): Williams is getting more and more comfortable at nose guard, showing up on Saturday with three tackles and a number of pressures in the backfield that don't show up on the stat sheet.

K Jeremy Shelley, Sr.: (Groza): Shelley finally got back on the board for the first time since Week 1, nailing two field goals against FAU.

Alabama awards tracker: Week 2

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
8:35
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Each week at TideNation we'll take a look at how Alabama's players up for postseason awards fared in action. All told, 12 Alabama players were put on watch lists this offseason.

QB AJ McCarron, Jr. (Maxwell, Manning, O'Brien, Camp): McCarron put on a show against WKU, tying a career high with four touchdown passes. He was 14-of-19 passing for 219 yards.

RB Eddie Lacy Jr. (Maxwell, Walker): The junior running back still isn't looking like himself after an ankle injury late in fall camp. He carried the ball nine times for 36 yards Saturday.

TE Michael Williams, Sr. (Mackey): Williams had an empty stat line against Western Kentucky, failing to catch a pass in Alabama's home opener.

C Barrett Jones, Sr. (Rimington, Outland, Lombardi, Walter Camp): Despite a poor showing from the entire line in pass protection Saturday, Jones continues to be a steady force on the offensive line, helping the running game to 103 yards rushing against WKU.

G Chance Warmack, Sr. (Outland, Lombardi): Warmack won't be pleased with how the line protected the quarterback on Saturday, but he's still a standout whenever the Tide decide to run the ball downhill.

RT D.J. Fluker, Jr. (Outland, Lombardi): Western Kentucky overloaded its blitzes on defense, often toward Fluker's side of the line. As a result, the junior tackle's weakness in pass protection was on full display.

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Bama special teams looking better

September, 6, 2012
9/06/12
11:05
AM ET
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- If there was anything lacking in the Crimson Tide's ride to a 14th national championship last season, it was their less-than-spectacular special teams play.

Alabama ranked in the bottom half of the SEC in punting and kicking in 2011-12. Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster were shaky on field goal attempts and Cody Mandell failed to clear 40 yards per punt, coming in last among SEC West punters.

But after a solid showing in the BCS National Championship and an offseason of competition, it appears the special teams are, well, more special this season.

Against Michigan, Foster hit his first 50-plus yard field goal since the 2010-11 season. He was 1-for-2 against the Wolverines, his miss sailing just left from 52 yards. Alabama was just 4-for-15 from 40 yards or longer last season.

Coach Nick Saban said he's been pleased with the progress Foster has made as a long-range specialist and hoped that Saturday night's performance would be a boost of confidence for him.

"Anytime you make a 51-yard field goal that’s probably good for a guy," Saban said. "The important thing for Cade is, he’s in a difficult circumstance because he only kicks the long ones. So his, you know, sort of, make percentage may not be as good as somebody else’s. But he’s also taking the more difficult shots. So he’s got to stay focused on: ‘This is how I would kick a short one; I want to execute the same way.’ He seems to be able to do that a little better and has been really consistent in practice."

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Alabama awards tracker: Week 1

September, 4, 2012
9/04/12
8:09
AM ET
Each week at TideNation we'll take a look at how Alabama's players up for postseason awards fared in action. All told, 12 Alabama players were put on watch lists this offseason.

QB AJ McCarron, Jr. (Maxwell, Manning, O'Brien, Camp): McCarron's numbers against Michigan weren't overwhelming -- 11-for-21 for 199 yards and two touchdowns -- but the product was impressive. He was accurate and decisive, building on his success against LSU in the national championship game. He simply wasn't needed after the first half against Michigan.

RB Eddie Lacy, Jr. (Maxwell, Walker): The junior running back didn't do anything to hurt his campaign with limited carries against Michigan -- nine carries for 36 yards and a touchdown -- but he can't stand on the sideline and win awards. The coaching staff wants him healthy for SEC play when he's needed.

TE Michael Williams, Sr. (Mackey): Williams caught a 2-yard pass for the game's first touchdown, but closed the game without another reception. If you look past the numbers, Williams was superb in the blocking game, but he'll need better stats to try and claim the hardware at the end of the year.

OLs Barrett Jones/Chance Warmack/D.J. Fluker (Rimington, Outland, Lombardi, Camp): They're all up for major awards on the offensive line, and after their dominating performance over Michigan -- leading the way for 236 yards rushing -- they've made a good first impression. McCarron was sacked just twice. Jones helped himself the most by looking comfortable in his first career start at center. He did not botch a snap all game.

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