Defensive left end isn’t a perfect position for Alabama based on that criteria, but it isn’t bad. That’s a spot where Head Coach Mike Shula, Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines, and Defensive Ends Coach David Turner should have confidence.
It begins with returning starter Wallace Gilberry. Gilberry, a 6-3, 254-pound junior, represents everything that is good about college football except for one thing. Guys like him make recruiting experts look bad. And recruiting coaches, too. That’s because Gilberry was not highly-recruited, signed late with Bama, and has been a very fine performer who is now an all-star candidate.
He is also a team leader, even though he has just one year of starting experience.
His story is well-known. Gilberry was headed to junior college out of Baldwin County High School. Not for academic reasons, but because he had not been offered a major college football scholarship. But the Bay Minette native had an outstanding performance in the Alabaa-Mississippi High School All-Star Game and became Shula’s first signee, joining the Tide in the summer of 2003.
After redshirting his first year, Gilberry became a top back-up in 2004 and as a freshman led the Tide with 13 tackles behind the line (for 50 yards in losses) and in sacks with 6.5 (44 yards). He had 28 tackles, seven quarterback pressures, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries playing behind Todd Bates.
Last year he won the starting job at left end and started all 12 games in Bama’s 10-2 season. He had 37 tackles, including 10 stops behind the line for 37 yards, six quarterback pressures, and recovered a fumble against Tennessee. (No, not that fumble. But an important one nevertheless.)
Senior Chris Harris hasn’t been a starter, but he has had a lot of playing time and has done well when given the opportunity. After being redshirted in 2002 and not playing until the fourth game of his freshman season in 2003, Harris went on to play in seven of the final eight games that year and in all 12 as a back-up in 2004 and all 12 last season. His biggest play last season came in Bama’s 31-3 rout of Florida as he picked off a Florida pass and returned it 14 yards to the Florida one-yard line to set up a Crimson Tide touchdown.
Harris is 6-5 and weighs 244 pounds.
Brandon Deaderick is in a tough spot behind a returning starter junior and an experienced senior, but the 6-4, 230-pound redshirt freshman is likely to get plenty of playing time, some of it on special teams. Deaderick is best-remembered, perhaps, for the famous 2005 recruiting story in which Auburn insiders were saying they didn’t care if they got Bobby Greenwood or not because Brandon Deaderick was better. And then Alabama got both of them! (Greenwood is in competition for the starting job at right defensive end.)
Deaderick got valuable experience in the spring when Harris had to miss some practice time with an injury.
Editor’s Note: This is one in a summer series of looks at Alabama’s football depth chart heading into the start of fall practice, which begins August 8.