09 December 2008
The regular season is over, and Bama is set to play in a BCS Bowl for the first time since 1999. There's not a whole lot to report right now, because the team is not having regular practices. Coach Saban found, while at Michigan State, that practicing the team too hard for the bowl game caused the players to burn out. So the team will have a more relaxed schedule for the next two weeks, before beginning heavy preparation for Utah.
While the team is taking a mini-break, it's time for us to look back on the 2008 season that was. Sure, there is another game to be played, but it will technically happen in 2009. Don't think that's an important distinction? Ask Colin Peek, who will be eligible to play in the Sugar Bowl because
it's played in 2009.
We're going to start our look back at 2008 by naming the top ten newcomers. I keep saying "we" and "us", but this is actually just my opinion here. I'm sure I'll hear from our other writers here, and hopefully you as well, but if you disagree, don't take it out on Glen, Crump, or Ell.
For clarification purposes, a newcomer for this list is anyone who played their first downs for the Tide this year. That means that not only true freshman, but also redshirt freshman and junior college transfers are eligible for this list. I'll do them in pairs, leading up to what will certainly be the most coveted award that anyone receives this off-season.
#10 - Marcel Dareus
While Marcel saw playing time in the Clemson game, and again against Western Kentucky, it was the eigth game of the season before he became a regular part of the Tide defensive line rotation. After subbing for an injured Terrence Cody against Tennessee, Marcel saw action in all of the Tide's remaining games except for the Auburn game.
The coaches raved about Marcel's work ethic during the early parts of the season, but it took Cody's injury to create an opportunity for substantial playing time. Once Marcel showed his ability to shed blockers and get to the quarterback, there was no looking back.
His big game came against LSU, when he recorded three of his four tackles on the season. The Tide's statistics crew was particularly stingy with quarterback hurries or Marcel would have certainly had more than the three that he ended the season with.
#9 - Mark Barron
With Rashad Johnson and Justin Woodall starting all 13 games, there weren't a lot of opportunities for the backup safeties to play. Barron saw some action on defense during a few of the Tide's blow outs, but most of his time came on special teams. To be more specific, most of his time came on the kick off coverage unit.
This unit struggled a bit during the early part of the season, but once Barron and several other freshman settled into their roles, the kick coverage unit improved considerably. Mark was more than just a wedge buster, and could usually be seen near the ball carrier.
His most memorable play might have come in the Tide's first game. He made a huge hit early in Bama's demolition of the Clemson Tigers, setting the physical tone of the day.
In all, Mark played in all 13 games, recording 17 tackles, eight solo and nine assists. Among those 17 were 1.5 sacks for a loss of 11 yards.
Tomorrow we'll look at another guy who was late in blossoming and another special teams warrior.