Barring injury, Wyatt's starters are set. Ahmad Childress and Anthony Bryant have been working hard this summer on their conditioning, and both men are making progress. If healthy and in excellent shape, the two have the potential to be very good.
Wyatt's problem is depth--especially depth of the experienced variety. After the two big starters, not a single Tide defensive tackle has played a down of SEC football.
"This season we have to rely on some guys that don't have a whole lot of experience," Wyatt said. "Somehow we've got to get them to where they're playing like veterans."
Aside from the lack of experience, Wyatt isn't complaining about his unit's overall talent. It would be nice to be able to work the freshmen into the lineup slowly. But Wyatt knows he won't have that luxury.
"We've got some guys that didn't play last year, and they've going to have to help," Wyatt stated flatly. "We've got to get them some experience on the run."
On the offensive line it's a little different. Not as much running is required on that side of the football, and the starting players can hope to be "iron men," taking the majority of snaps in a game. But the D-Line works differently. Every athlete is expected to go full out on every play, and without an effective playing rotation the guys simply wear out.
In order to be as effective in the fourth quarter as the first, Wyatt says he'll need a minimum of four SEC caliber athletes for the interior rotation--preferably more.
Redshirt freshmen Jeremy Clark and Kyle Tatum are his prime candidates.
When he signed with Alabama in 2002, Tatum (6-6, 274) was considered by most experts to be the top defensive line prospect in the state. Playing mainly at defensive end, he totaled 95 tackles and 11 sacks his final prep season. After arriving on campus, he was quickly moved inside and has worked hard to gain strength and bulk up during his redshirt season.
Like Tatum, Jeremy Clark was a defensive end in high school. But his size (6-2, 280) made a move to tackle more obvious. Since arriving on campus his weight hasn't changed that much, but his body make-up has. Now noticeably thicker and more muscular, Clark's work in the weight room has paid off.
"They're different sizes, but Jeremy and Kyle are both are very athletic," Wyatt said. "That's their common attribute. They have quick feet, and they can change directions well. They're very athletic."
Wyatt praises Clark's and Tatum's work ethic. But as Ahmad Childress likes to say, playing on the inside requires "grown men," and to compete successfully in the SEC both back-ups must continue their weight lifting.
Wyatt commented, "They're not as strong as you'd like them to be right now, but they're just redshirt freshmen. They were (right at) 285 pounds in the spring, so if they can come in this fall a solid 290 or 295--also having increased their numbers in the weight room--then we'll be on the right track.
Clark is expected to report in the 285 pound range, while Tatum will likely weigh somewhat less. His frame is longer than Clark's, which means that it'll take longer for Tatum to add "permanent" weight.
Wyatt worries about the youngsters' experience level, but not their talent. "I feel good about both of them," he acknowledged. "They're good young football players...
"But they're going to have to grow up fast."
Youth does have an upside, however. Wyatt explained, "On the other hand, it's time for them to step up. This season they'll have plenty of chances to gain experience. Then they'll have three more years to be playing, so it could work out well for us."
After transferring to Alabama from UAB, Taylor Britt (6-3, 279) sat out last season. With Bama's need for depth, he'll be given every chance to earn a spot in the playing rotation. "Taylor is in the mix with the younger guys," Wyatt said.
Walk-on J.P. Adams, whose father is a dean at The University, was a pleasant surprise during spring. A former defensive end, Adams has his weight up in the 265 pound range and is a relentless worker. Wyatt commented, "A kid like J.P. Adams is working very hard, and he had a decent spring. Guys like that--we need somebody to jump up and surprise us."
Two other walk-ons contributed at defensive tackle in the spring. Senior John Bevel (6-0, 289) is now working there, after moving from middle linebacker. And transfer Gerritt Gordon (6-2, 270) didn't play football last season, so he should be eligible this year.
He can't speak about him on the record until fall camp begins August 4, but Wyatt also has his eye on true freshman Dominic Lee. At 6-4, 295 pounds, "The Dominator" has the look of a future star. But true freshmen are rarely ready for the rigors of SEC play.
"It would really help if a true freshman could play," Wyatt admitted. "We're not counting on it, but if one could, it would really help."
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