Alabama Crimson Tide: Tracking the Tide

Tracking the Tide: Doug Nussmeier

December, 29, 2012
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Editor’s note: Each day between now and Alabama's date with Notre Dame in the Discover 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 offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.

Doug Nussmeier
Offensive coordinator
Finished in the top 20 in rushing offense (224.6 yards per game) and scoring offense (38.46 points per game)

[+] EnlargeDoug Nussmeier
UA Athletic PhotographyOffensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier's playbook and direction led to more big plays for Alabama in 2012.
Role in 2012: Nussmeier integrated himself into the Alabama offense rather than rebuild it completely, staying with the physical identity that coach Jim McElwain built before heading to Colorado State last season.

The good: The first-year coordinator brought new life to offense in one respect -- the big play. Nussmeier opened up the playbook and gave more control to quarterback AJ McCarron to make more changes at the line of scrimmage and take more shots downfield. The change resulted in a more potent passing game, particularly off of play-action. McCarron had 11 touchdown passes off of play-action, six more than a season ago.

The bad: There were times this season where it looked as if Alabama was in the midst of an identity crisis. One moment the Tide would punch the ball downfield using Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon and their dominant offensive line in two-tight-end formations. The next moment UA would spread the field with three and four wide receivers, push the tempo and try to win the game through the air. You might stretch to call that balance if it was more effective. But it wasn't. There were many times this season (LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia) where the inconsistency between run and pass hurt Alabama's offense.

Crystal ball: Alabama's offense is headed one direction or another. The call is Nussmeier's. Will it be a physical, run-first attack? Or will it open up and put the game in the hands of its quarterback? That remains to be seen, but the question must be answered. Flipping back and forth won't work. Alabama will have a senior quarterback and a deep, talented group of receivers next year. The allure to tip the scales in favor of the pass will be tempting, but at what cost? Lacy may bolt for the NFL, but there are still a number of talented tailbacks remaining. Alabama has gone to three championship games in four years using the same tried and true formula. Is what happens next a question of evolution, adjustment or something more?

Tracking the Tide: AJ McCarron

December, 28, 2012
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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 quarterback AJ McCarron.

No. 10 AJ McCarron
Quarterback
Third team All-American selection


Role in 2012: McCarron didn't have to think about battling to become the full-time starting quarterback this season as backup Phillip Sims transferred to Virginia.

The good: The junior took his game to another level in his second year starting under center. For most of the season he led the country in passing efficiency, andn despite a few below-average performances at the tail end of the year, he finished that way, beating out the likes of Georgia's Aaron Murray and West Virginia's Geno Smith. McCarron threw 26 touchdowns to three interceptions, with 2,669 passing yards so far.

The bad: Beyond seeking out another national championship, there's a reason McCarron decided to return for his senior season. His inconsistency down the stretch revealed that there's still work to be done on his game. Whether it was getting happy feet in the pocket, making uncharacteristic reads or letting a ball sail too high, McCarron underwhelmed in key moments against LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia, and with so many NFL scouts watching, he couldn't afford to.

Crystal ball: The good news for McCarron is that while his dream of playing in the pros waits, his receiving corps at Alabama gets stronger. He'll benefit from a number of quality receivers. Outside of the projected starters Kevin Norwood, Christion Jones and Amari Cooper, Alabama will tout talented backups in Kenny Bell, DeAndrew White, Chris Black and Cyrus Jones. As cornerback Dee Milliner put it, "If he comes back with the weapons we have at receiver, he can be unbelievable."

Tracking the Tide: Eddie Lacy

December, 27, 2012
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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 running back Eddie Lacy.

No. 42 Eddie Lacy
Running back
First team All-SEC selection

Role in 2012: Lacy struggled to stay healthy early in the season and despite a push from freshman T.J. Yeldon, he never surrendered his spot as the No. 1 tailback for the Crimson Tide.

The good: The junior was a wrecking ball on offense. The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder had moments where it looked like he couldn't be brought down, most recently against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game where he pinballed his way to 181 yards and two touchdowns. His performance in that game was likely a double-edged sword for Alabama, simultaneously carrying the Tide to victory while also likely assuring his early entry into the NFL draft.

The bad: If there's one area that might keep Lacy from turning pro, it will be the question of his durability. There hasn't been a point in the past two years where the Louisiana native has been completely healthy. Whether it's turf toe, a sprained ankle or a strained hamstring, there's always been something. But give Lacy credit, he doesn't complain about the pain and rarely lets it hinder his performance.

Crystal ball: All signs point to Lacy entering the draft in April after Alabama's showdown against Notre Dame in Miami. Lacy, for his part, said he's not made his mind up one way or the other. If he comes back and stays healthy all season, that could help his stock. But he must also consider the depth waiting to return as well. It's only a matter of time before Yeldon is the feature back and Jalston Fowler, Dee Hart and Kenyan Drake cannot wait for carries much longer. That all goes without mentioning the bevy of tailback commitments in the 2013 class.

Tracking the Tide: T.J. Yeldon

December, 26, 2012
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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 running back T.J. Yeldon.

No. 4 T.J. Yeldon
Running back
First team All-SEC selection

Role in 2012: There were times this season where Yeldon looked like the No. 1 running back for the Crimson Tide, as he and starter Eddie Lacy were neck-and-neck for the team lead in rushing yards coming down the home stretch.

The good: The true freshman wasted no time introducing himself to the college football world, rushing for 111 yards and a touchdown against then-No. 8 Michigan in the season opener. It was the first time an Alabama rookie broke the century mark, which is saying a lot when you consider all the great tailbacks (Trent Richardson, Mark Ingram, Shaun Alexander) to come through Tuscaloosa, Ala. Yeldon showed the full package at tailback, rushing between the tackles as well as he did bouncing the ball outside. He was also adept in the passing game, coming in seventh on the team in receptions. His vision and patience running the football seemed far beyond his years.

The bad: With the ball in his hands, Yeldon had very few flaws. The issues came when he didn't. Yeldon struggled with pass protection at times, especially early in the season, though he did show signs of improvement as the year wore on. Where he didn't improve was ball security, losing fumbles in crucial situations against LSU and Texas A&M.

Crystal ball: Even if Lacy returned for his senior season, he might not enter camp as the No. 1 running back. Yeldon is simply too talented a player to be kept to 10 carries a game. We've only begun to see what he's capable of as a freshman. Another year of learning the offense and training in the weight room should pay dividends for the former four-star and Mr. Football in the state of Alabama.

Tracking the Tide: Cyrus Kouandjio

December, 25, 2012
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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 left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio.

No. 71 Cyrus Kouandjio
Left tackle
Former All-SEC Freshman Team selection


Role in 2012: After playing a bit as a backup his freshman year, Kouandjio entered this season as the clear-cut starter at left tackle.

The good: The sophomore didn't disappoint after returning from a knee injury that cut short his freshman campaign in 2011. The former No. 1 offensive tackle prospect in the country slid in and ably protected quarterback AJ McCarron's blind side. While he did well in pass protection, his biggest strength was run-blocking. Alabama had the most success rushing the football to his side of the line, pulling left guard Chance Warmack while leaving Kouandjio to seal the edge. The tandem worked to near perfection as UA ran for more than 220 yards per game.

The bad: Whether it was a result of inexperience or a case of simply needing to knock the rust off after the injury, consistency was hard to come by early in the season for Kouandjio. He committed a few too many penalties and struggled in pass protection at times, mostly as a result of minor errors in technique.

Crystal ball: The same traits that had college scouts salivating about Kouandjio two years ago are starting to draw the attention of pro scouts. His size (311 pounds) and length (6-foot-6) are perfect for an offensive tackle at the next level. His production has increased with experience and he has shown he can hold his own against some of the best defensive linemen in the country while playing in the SEC. Three UA offensive linemen will be drafted this April and, had it not been for Kouandjio's underclassman status, he would be a fourth. While he awaits the promise of an NFL future, Alabama gets a bookend tackle to build around next season as the Crimson Tide replace three-fifths of the starting offensive line.

Tracking the Tide: Chance Warmack

December, 24, 2012
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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 left guard Chance Warmack.

No. 65 Chance Warmack
Left guard
First-team All-America selection


Role in 2012: Warmack was the most effective blocker on the best offensive line in all of college football.

The good: The senior rose from a possible NFL prospect to the top-rated offensive lineman overnight. As scouts looked at his game film, it was obvious -- Warmack was dominant and tenacious. Every time Alabama was running the ball, it was his direction and he could be seen 3, 4 and 5 yards ahead of the play, churning his feet and barreling over defenders.

The bad: Truth be told, there aren't many weaknesses to Warmack's game. His strength and durability are obvious. He started 39 career games and missed a team-low six assignments this season. His toughness and production speak for themselves. He had a team-best 36 pancake blocks. His only weakness, which comes more by way of a default, might be pass protection. He struggles with pad placement at times, though he doesn't have much trouble recovering from any minor flaw in technique.

Crystal ball: Warmack will go somewhere in the first round of April's draft. Barring catastrophe, that much is certain. Who replaces him at Alabama is not as obvious. Sophomore Arie Kouandjio could slide in at either right or left guard, depending on what the coaching staff does with Anthony Steen. But the real tantalizing option is freshman Alphonse Taylor, who will likely redshirt this season. The former four-star prospect transitioned from the defensive to offensive line in fall camp and seems well on his way to a career at guard. He's already 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds and has great athletic ability for a man his size.

Tracking the Tide: Barrett Jones

December, 23, 2012
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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 center Barrett Jones.

No. 75 Barrett Jones
Center
First-team All-America selection


Role in 2012: Jones continued to do what he has done throughout his career: change positions, make it look easy and rack up the awards.

The good: The redshirt senior made the transition to center appear seamless this season. He did not allow a sack in 266 pass attempts, according to Alabama. The offense hummed along, and, despite a few hiccups in pass coverage, the Crimson Tide were able to move the ball with striking efficiency. UA ranked 20th in rushing offense and averaged more than 38 points per game.

The bad: That little "hiccup" was Jones' biggest deficiency. Alabama allowed 23 sacks this season, ranking a pedestrian 53rd nationally. Jones said the errors in pass protection were, in part, a result of poor communication. As the center and leader of the offensive line, the majority of the blame therefor falls on his shoulders.

Crystal ball: It might not be such a stretch to call Jones one of the most decorated Alabama football players of all time. His four seasons playing for coach Nick Saban have been some of the most successful in school history, both personally and as a team member. He followed up winning the Outland Trophy at left tackle in 2011 by taking home the Rimington Trophy this season. If Alabama beats Notre Dame on Jan. 7, he would have three championship rings. Next stop: The NFL. Jones will likely go somewhere before the fourth round in April's draft. Redshirt freshman Ryan Kelly is a shoo-in to replace Jones next season. Jones called the former center ranked No. 4 in the 2010 signing class his protege and claimed he is "a whole heck of a lot more talented than I am."

Tracking the Tide: Anthony Steen

December, 22, 2012
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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 guard Anthony Steen.

No. 61 Anthony Steen
Right guard
Blocked for two 1,000-yard tailbacks


Role in 2012: Steen came back from injury a season ago to play and start in all 13 games at right guard in 2012.

The good: The junior was a quiet force in the interior of the offensive line. He didn't grab headlines like center Barrett Jones, left guard Chance Warmack or right tackle D.J. Fluker. His potential wasn't hailed like that of sophomore Cyrus Koundjio. Nonetheless, Steen was effective and helped Alabama form one of the best offensive lines in all of college football. The Crimson Tide ranked 20th nationally in rushing offense (224.6 yards per game) and 15th in red zone efficiency.

The bad: If there's one area in which the offensive line struggled, it was pass protection. Alabama ranked 53rd in sacks allowed, letting quarterback AJ McCarron go down more often than he should. For that, Steen shares in some of the blame. Whether it was a lack of communication or execution, defenders were able to get into the backfield far too often.

Crystal ball: It's likely Steen will remain an interior lineman next year, but he could switch sides as Warmack heads for the NFL draft in a few months. Alabama might see an opportunity to pair two experienced linemen in Steen and Kouandjio and allow T.J. Yeldon and the rest of the stable of tailbacks to run left next season. Sophomore Arie Kouandjio, who served as the second-team right guard this year, could slide in to replace Steen should he move positions.

Tracking the Tide: D.J. Fluker

December, 21, 2012
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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
Right tackle
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.

Tracking the Tide: Michael Williams

December, 20, 2012
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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 tight end Michael Williams.

No. 89 Michael Williams
Tight end
21 receptions, 166 yards, 3 touchdowns


Role in 2012: Williams was the Crimson Tide's best and arguably only reliable option at tight end this season.

The good: The redshirt senior didn't jump off the screen, but he was consistent. As he has been his entire career since moving to offense, Williams was an above-average blocker with just enough skill in space to be a threat in the passing game. He was fourth on the team with 21 receptions for 166 yards and three touchdowns. But his worth is also measured in Alabama's success running the football. Both Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon were able to rush for 1,000 yards this season thanks in no small part to Williams' efforts.

The bad: Williams never developed into the receiving threat some might have hoped for when he transitioned from defensive end to tight end. Despite having the frame (6-foot-6, 269 pounds) and athleticism (coach Nick Saban touted his skills on the basketball court) that can cause matchup problems with both linebackers and defensive backs, Williams didn't become a weapon in the way of a poor man's Tony Gonzalez or Jason Witten.

Crystal ball: Because of his skill in the running game, Williams should find a home in the NFL. He's arguably one of the best blocking tight ends in all of college football, which is something scouts and general managers value when looking for backups. As far as the question of who will step up next year, the answer is wide open. Neither sophomores Harrison Jones or Brian Vogler have separated themselves this season. Redshirt freshman Malcolm Faciane has played and has a frame (6-foot-5, 259 pounds) to grow into. Another option might be moving wide receiver Marvin Shinn inside to tight end. The 6-foot-3 redshirt freshman would have to put on weight, but he already has played some snaps at the position early in the season. Keep an eye on two Alabama commitments to make an impact right away: O.J. Howard is the No. 2 tight end prospect in the country and Josh McNeil isn't far behind at No. 4 in the ESPN 150.

Tracking the Tide: Christion Jones

December, 19, 2012
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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 wide receiver Christion Jones.

No. 22 Christion Jones
Wide receiver
25 receptions, 328 yards, 5 touchdowns

Role in 2012: Jones was the starting slot receiver and return specialist.

The good: The sophomore's speed did not disappoint. He became a matchup nightmare for defenses, which tried to employ linebackers in coverage to no avail. They were simply too slow to keep up with Jones, who was deadly in crossing patterns and post routes. If AJ McCarron had more than a few seconds in the pocket, he was likely to find Jones wide open in the middle of the field, splitting the safeties.

The bad: Jones' game didn't develop beyond his speed and quickness. He struggled making the everyday judgement calls on punt returns and had trouble dropping catchable passes at receiver. For such a capable athlete, he looked stiff at times, unable to get beyond the coverage by running crisp routes or outmaneuvering defenders.

Crystal ball: Despite his struggles, Jones is the leader in the clubhouse to return as the starting slot receiver next season. His experience will give him the upper hand, but he might encounter some competition in freshman Chris Black, who redshirted this season. Black is a former four-star prospect and top-5 receiver out of high school who possesses the same kind of traits that make Jones special -- speed, agility and quickness.

Tracking the Tide: Amari Cooper

December, 18, 2012
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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 wide receiver Amari Cooper.

No. 9 Amari Cooper
Wide receiver
53 receptions, 895 yards, 9 touchdowns

[+] EnlargeAmari Cooper
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesAmari Cooper pounced on an opportunity to start after injuries depleted the Tide's receiver ranks.
Role in 2012: Cooper began the season as a backup receiver but progressed quickly into a starting role, thanks to injuries to Kenny Bell and DeAndrew White.

The good: The freshman didn't waste much time showing what he can do at Alabama, flashing an above-average ability to get behind defenders and catch passes in traffic. He caught his first pass against Michigan in the season opener, two more against Western Kentucky the following week and hauled in his first career touchdown a week later. It wasn't long before he was breaking the century mark in receiving yards, which he did four times this season, and catching multiple touchdowns in a single game, which he did three times.

The bad: For a rookie, there was very little to pick on in Cooper's game. He was just as adept catching short- and medium-range passes as he was going deep. He could abuse second-tier talent such as Florida Atlantic just as easily as he did the likes of future NFL safety Baccari Rambo and Georgia. The only concern might have come in the SEC Championship in what was arguably the play of the game. Cooper showed his youth on the game-winning touchdown pass from McCarron. Instead of running his route and trusting the play, Cooper looked back midway and slowed down, thinking the ball was going elsewhere. While he was able to outrun the mistake, plays like that will catch up with him.

Crystal ball: There's no doubt Alabama has a go-to receiver for years to come in Cooper. He's the most successful freshman receiver the Tide have had since Julio Jones. Cooper is a complete wideout with the talent to develop into a first-round pick by the time his career in Tuscaloosa has come to a close. He'll be further aided next season with quarterback AJ McCarron returning for his senior year and the wide receiver corps getting a much-needed boost in terms of depth with the return of Bell, White and freshman Chris Black.

Tracking the Tide: Kevin Norwood

December, 17, 2012
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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 wide receiver Kevin Norwood.

No. 83 Kevin Norwood
Wide receiver
26 receptions, 395 yards, 4 touchdowns

Role in 2012: Norwood picked up where he left off late last season, becoming a consistent possession receiver for the Crimson Tide.

The good: The junior stepped up as a leader of the young receiving corps that lost all three of its starters from a season ago. Despite battling his own nagging injuries, Norwood became a reliable target for quarterback AJ McCarron, especially late in games. His three straight receptions in the fourth quarter against LSU kept the Tide's perfect season alive.

The bad: Norwood's inability to stay on the field consistently hampered the passing game as a whole. Outside of Norwood and Amari Cooper, there were no reliable outside receivers. DeAndrew White and Kenny Bell both went down with season-ending injuries, Chris Black never started a game after injuring his shoulder in pre-season camp and neither Marvin Shinn or Cyrus Jones were able to step up in their absence.

Crystal ball: Norwood's return will allow for more flexibility in the receiving corps next season. If he can stay healthy, he would presumably start alongside Cooper and slot receiver Christion Jones. That would leave Bell, White and Black coming off the bench, plus any unknowns that might present themselves in spring or fall camp.

Tracking the Tide: Kirby Smart

December, 16, 2012
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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 defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.

Kirby Smart
Defensive coordinator
Alabama allowed 246.0 yards and 10.7 points per game this season

Role in 2012: Smart was once again head coach Nick Saban's right-hand man, implementing his defensive scheme and making in-game adjustments for the Crimson Tide.

The good: The sixth-year coordinator performed a nearly complete overhaul on a defense that was historically dominant a year ago. Consider how three-quarters of the secondary was drafted. Think about how two of Smart's All-American linebackers from last season are contributing on Sundays. The way he's brought along young players like Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, Xzavier Dickson and Trey DePriest is remarkable. Despite not having the same type of experience and playmakers as a year ago, Smart has produced a defense that ranks in the top 10 of nearly every major statistical category.

The bad: Whether it was a product of youth or not, consistency evaded the defense. Just look at the late-season lapses on third down as a prime example. When the pressure was on, missed tackles and errors in execution added up. They were correctable mistakes we didn't see a season ago.

Crystal ball: Smart's stock continues to rise. His flirtation with Auburn aside, it's only a matter of time before the 36-year-old makes the leap to head coaching. Athletic directors in need of a leading man will not only see a coach from a strong program, but also one that can recruit like gangbusters. Smart has made huge inroads in the state of Georgia and has helped Saban pull in top-3 classes every year since 2008.

Tracking the Tide: Quinton Dial

December, 15, 2012
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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 defensive end Quinton Dial.

No. 91 Quinton Dial
Defensive end
21 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks

Role in 2012: Dial split time with Ed Stinson at defensive end in Alabama's base 3-4 alignment.

The good: The senior worked his way into the starting lineup after transferring from junior college a year ago, beating out Stinson and others for the starting nod. Dial's numbers didn't jump off the page but he was consistently strong in run support and did not find himself out of position much on defense.

The bad: Dial didn't seem a good fit for the new college game at times, struggling to get on the field when more athletic defensive ends were needed. With more and more offenses going toward mobile quarterbacks who can break containment, the need for big run-stuffers like Dial is dwindling.

Crystal ball: Dial could be one of the rare cases of a player doing better in the NFL than he did at Alabama. His size (6-foot-5, 307 pounds) will be attractive to general managers looking to fill out their rosters with versatile defensive linemen. While Dial will lack for game tape, he should perform well in combine and one-on-one situations. Jeoffrey Pagan and D.J. Pettway seem to be the prime candidate to step in at defensive end. Other options include Ed Stinson, LaMichael Fanning, Korren Kirven and Dalvin Tomlinson.

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