There really shouldn't be any question who these two guys are. They both earned starting roles for the season opening game against Clemson and never looked back. The only thing that really separated these guys for me was the quality depth at their position, and the fact that one guy missed two games. Otherwise, there's no real shock value here.
#2 Terrence Cody
There have been very few linemen (offensive or defensive) in the history of Alabama football who have become wildly popular with fans. Typically those guys are taken for granted, and only noticed when they do something wrong. Terrence was able to become one of the Tide's most popular players, though, and the reason is easy to see - his a big, big man.
At first it looked as though he might be a novelty. After all, how many of these truly colassal guys have been able to play? Terrence didn't have a large number of upper-tier scholarship offers, and his size was the reason. Many people thought that he was simply too big to be able to contribute with any consistency. Thankfully the only person at Alabama that had to feel otherwise was Nick Saban, and he obviously felt like Terrence could play.
There were reports that he tipped the scales at A-Day last year at over 400 pounds. I can't verify that, but when the season started he was listed at a "trim" 365 pounds, and that seems to have made all the difference. He quickly shot to the top of the depth chart at the nose guard position, and made it possible for Lorenzo Washington to move to defensive end.
It would be incorrect to say that he made an immediate impact in the Clemson game. He wasn't involved in the incomplete pass on Clemson's first offensive play, or the forced fumble by Cory Reamer on Clemson's second offensive play. It actually took until Clemson's third play, when he made All-Everything tailback James Davis look silly on a 1-yard loss. And that was pretty much it for the Tigers, as they ended the game with zero yards rushing.
And thus began the legend of Terrence Cody. It reach a fever pitch against Ole Miss when he was inserted at fullback, and plowed the way, on a touchdown run by Mark Ingram. Unfortunately he was also injured later in that game, and the fact that he missed the next two games is the #2 reason that he is #2 on this list. More on that later.
In all Terrence finished the season with 23 tackles, and 4.5 for a loss. While those numbers aren't eye-popping, given his role on the defense, they were perfect. Don't believe me? Well, he made every All-SEC list that there was, and has been first team All-American on half a dozen or so released teams.
The #1 reason that he didn't make #1 on this list is because there were people behind him that could take up the slack. Both Josh Chapman and Marcel Dareus proved to be capable players when Terrence was out, though that could get a full season test if Cody decides to leave early for the NFL.
Having the luxury of having productive players behind him was not a luxury afforder to #1:
#1 Julio Jones
I know, I know... huge surprise. But is there really any doubt? Alabama wide receivers caught 102 passes on the season. Julio accounted for 51 (that's 50%) of those. Those other seven wide receivers combined with Julio to rack up 1,499 yards on the season. Julio accounted for 847 of those, an astounding 56.5%. Of the eight touchdowns caught by receivers, he had four. Are you noticing a trend?
All of Alabama's other wide receivers put together could not match the production of one true freshman. Sure, there were tight ends and running backs that also caught passes, but nobody came even close. Nick Walker finished the season with 29 receptions, 22 less than Julio's 51. Even more striking is the fact that Walker's 299 yards were second on the team to Julio's 847. That's a difference of 548 yards.
I'll say that another way to emphasize that - he had 548 more yards receiving than anyone else on the team.
He was Alabama's one consistent threat at the wide receiver position, and had the Tide trailed in more games (thus needing to pass more) he would probably already be over 1,000 yards receiving on the season. It will take a great Sugar Bowl for him to reach that total, but if he accomplishes it, he will join David Palmer and DJ Hall as the only players in Bama history to top that mark. If he can join that list he will also combine with Glen Coffee to give Bama its first ever 1,000 yard rusher / 1,000 yard receiver combo in school history.
There really aren't enough words to describe just what Julio meant to this team. And it really shouldn't be a shock. After all, we started hearing about him when he was a sophomore in high school. But it was a Youtube video prior to the season started that sent the message to everyone else that Julio would be a force to be reckoned with.
It didn't take long for the Tide to send that message in a game, either. The first pass attempt of the season was a wide receiver screen that Julio took for nine yards. He also added a touchdown against Clemson to establish himself as a real threat from the first game forward.
But stats don't tell the true story. The thing about Julio that amazes me, beyond the routes and the hands, is the way that he discards college football players on a regular basis. He is such a physical specimen that you can probably count the number of times that he was brought down by one player on one hand. In fact, there were probably more times that it took more than four defenders to tackle him.
The fact that this guy is a freshman is truly astonishing. If you just saw him play, without looking at a roster, you would probably assume that he was a senior. Several NFL scouts have said that he was be a high first round pick in the NFL draft this season. One can only wonder what his draft status will look like in two years when he becomes eligible to enter his name.
I've not done justice to Julio's year here in this brief article. I don't think it's possible to do him justice in words. He is a player that you truly have to see to believe. There are two links below - one that shows how physical he is, the other was his most important play of the season. Simply saying that he is the first true freshman wide receiver to ever start the season opener for Alabama just doesn't say it. This video is a start.
That's it for the top newcomers. Up next we'll take a look at the most improved players for the Tide this year.
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