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ALABAMA FOOTBALL: Defense and Special Teams Notebook



Sept. 2, 2009

ALABAMA FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK:  The Alabama defense and special teams are featured each Wednesday here in the Alabama Football Notebook.

RETURNING SUCCESS: Much of the talk in the preseason has been about Alabama‘s vaunted defense, and the defensive side of the football is where the Crimson Tide returns the biggest portion of its players from last year’s Sugar Bowl team. UA features 14 total returning starters and 55 lettermen this season, but eight of those returning starters are on the defensive side of the football with four on offense and both specialists. The Tide returns 90 percent of its lettermen on defense and 73 percent on offense. The defense returns 84 percent of the tackles (728 of 866) from last season. The special teams returns almost completely intact with place-kicker Leigh Tiffin, punter P.J. Fitzgerald, snapper Brian Selman and return specialist Javier Arenas.

DOMINANT “D”: One of the positives for the Crimson Tide in 2009 is the wealth of talent and experience they return on the defensive side of the football. Alabama returns eight starters to a defense that finished third nationally in total defense, allowing just 263.5 yards per game. They also finished second in rush defense, surrendering just 74.14 ypg. The Tide’s scoring defense was seventh (14.29) while the pass efficiency defense was 14th (106.68). The Crimson Tide defense returns 84 percent of the tackles (728 of 866) from last season.

LINEBACKERS NATION’S ELITE: Alabama entered the season a year ago with a lot of questions and no depth at linebacker. In 2009, one of the few questions is how will the Tide get all of their talented young linebackers playing time. Leading that group of is junior Rolando McClain and sophomore Dont’a Hightower. McClain was a Butkus Award finalist a year ago and a preseason Playboy All-American in 2009. Hightower was a Freshman All-American a year ago and will be looking for even more as a sophomore. SEC beat writer Chris Low recently took a look at the SEC linebacking corps and ranked them from 1-12. The Crimson Tide came out on top in a league filled with outstanding linebackers. Sporting News also tabbed the Alabama linebackers the best in the nation. Below is a look at what Low had to say about the Tide.

“1. Alabama: The one-two punch of Rolando McClain and Dont’a Hightower is as good as there is anywhere in the country. Watch some of the younger guys take off at linebacker this season, too, like Courtney Upshaw and Jerrell Harris. The Crimson Tide has depth, talent and smarts to go around at linebacker.”

ARENAS A COMMUNITY SERVICE LEADER: Senior cornerback and return specialist Javier Arenas is a nominee for the 2009 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, which recognizes college football players who make outstanding contributions in the area of volunteerism and civic involvement.  Arenas, a native of Tampa, Fla., is one of 52 Division I-A student-athletes across college football nominated for their efforts away from the gridiron. These athletes are being honored for their selfless efforts in the surrounding communities. Arenas has volunteered more than 50 hours of community service throughout the Tuscaloosa community. He has spent time in the local school systems, speaking to children about the dangers of bullying and the positive effects of team work. He has also attended birthday parties of physically challenged children and reached out with phone calls to children battling cancer.

ARENAS BREAKING SPECIAL TEAMS RECORDS: Javier Arenas enters his senior season near or at the top of almost all of the Crimson Tide’s punt return records. He is a preseason Playboy All-American as a return specialist and a first-team All-SEC selection at cornerback. He is one of the most dangerous return men in the country and Alabama’s career leader in punt returns yards in a game, season and career as well as touchdowns. He is the active NCAA leader in career punt returns for touchdowns and punt return yards in a game. Arenas’ 13.54 career yards per punt return also ranks first on the Alabama career chart, just ahead of Harry Gilmer. His six career punt returns for touchdowns also ties the SEC record.

PRESEASON ALL-AMERICANS: The Crimson Tide has had five players earn preseason first-team All-America honors leading up to the start of the 2009 campaign. Javier Arenas, Terrence Cody, Mike Johnson, Julio Jones and Rolando McClain have garnered at least one first-team designation. McClain leads the way with six first-team honors.