13 December 2008
Around this time every season there is a buzz created by the countdown to national signing day. Go to any recruiting service message board and you'll see all kinds of projects about how this recruit, or that recruit will come out of high school and project to start for the team they've committed to.
Right now you'll see all kinds of talk about guys like Fletcher Cox, Olivier Vernon, Ed Stinson, and Montez Robinson being capable of walking in the door (if they come to Bama) and competing for playing time at the jack linebacker position. Almost all of that talk will consist of how they compare to Brandon Fanney and Courtney Upshaw; the two guys who took most of the snaps at the jack this season.
What you won't see is a lot of talk about Glenn Harbin or Michael Williams. These guys were the "next great thing" last season at this time, projected by many to contend for the starting spot at the jack. They've used the 2008 season as a redshirt year, and that has them "out of sight, out of mind" for a great many fans. In this modern recruiting age of instant gratification or bust, it's easy to forget about those guys that are working every day knowing that they won't play until next year. But sometimes those guys can quickly become a major part of your program's success.
#6 Josh Chapman
Josh played in the first three games of the 2007, and then injuries cost him the remainder of the season. I'm not sure why a medical redshirt wasn't applied for, but it is my understanding that you have until the completion of a player's senior season to make such an application. <Edit: There seems to be conflicting info here, with some places listing him as a FR.> Either way, even if he is technically a Soph. now, I'm still considering him a newcomer, based solely on the fact that after week three of last season he became a forgotten man.
The Terrence Cody show didn't exactly help that change too much during fall camp either. Big Cody made such a huge impact that there was virtually no talk about any other interior defensive line player for the Tide. But from the season opener against Clemson, Josh simply went about his business, took his turns in the rotation, and quietly had a great season.
The main reason I would say that Josh had a great season is that it was quiet. Cody was so impressive that you would think that when he came out of the game there would be a huge dropoff. You would think that Chapman would get talked about a lot, simply because teams were able to suddenly run up the middle when he came in the game. The problem for opposing offenses is that there really wasn't much difference, at least when it came to success.
If you really break down the game film, you'll see that Josh plays a little different technique than Terrence, typically lining up directly opposite the opposing center, as opposed to Cody playing in one of the center-guard gaps. You'll also see that what Josh lacks in size (compared to Cody), he makes up for with strength and technique. By the time he leaves the Capstone, this guy will be a force to be reckoned with.
All told he finished the 2008 season having played in all 13 games, and starting the two that Cody missed. Playing nose guard in this system isn't about putting up big numbers, but more about occupying blockers. After all, Cody was an AFCA All-American with just 23 tackles. Josh didn't finish terribly far behind him, racking up 16, including four for a loss of seven yards.
#5 Marquis Maze
For most of the second half of the 2008 season we heard a lot of talk about Bama looking for a number two receiver behind Julio Jones. A final look at the season stats will tell you that Mike McCoy was Bama's second leading receiver among the guys who play wide receiver. Would you guess that Maze was number three? Would you guess that he was actually tied for second among all pass catchers for touchdowns?
And let's be honest, there were at least a half dozen times in the season that Marquis had his man beat badly, only to see an underthrown ball cost him a touchdown. He could have very easily finished the season as the Tide's second leading receiver among wide outs.
We got an early look at what Marquis is capable of in the Clemson game. You won't see it on any official stat sheet, but the play of the game in the Tide's season opener was a one handed circus catch 30 yards downfield by Maze. A phantom penalty on Antoine Caldwell (I still haven't seen him move pre-snap) wiped the play out, but it gave us all a glimpse of what he is capable of.
One of Glen55's big numbers for a receiver is average yards per reception, figuring it gives you a gauge as to whether or not the guy is actually moving the chains. Marquis put up a very respectable 12.5 average on his 11 catches. If you don't have a calculator handy, that's a total 137 yards.
The thing that will stand out to me is the growth in maturity we saw. When he caught his first touchdown pass of the season he was flagged 15 yards for illegal celebration. It was a stupid penalty, and it was obvious that he learned from his mistake. His second (and final) touchdown of the season was the exclamation point on the 36-0 whipping of Auburn, and I'm not sure whether he ran faster to catch the ball, or faster to the sidelines after scoring the touchdown. There was absolutely no
chance of him getting a penalty, demonstrating that he learned his lesson.
Up next will be two guys that saw the field early and often and played a huge part in Bama's overall success.
#7 Courtney Upshaw & #8 Brad Smelley
#9 Mark Barron & #10 Marcel Dareus