Oct. 11, 2008
By Scott Latta
If Bobby Greenwood needs any sort of motivation going into his senior season, he doesn't have to look very far to find someone who, just a year ago, found himself in a very similar situation.
It was about this time last year that people were talking about Wallace Gilberry's last chance. After a surprisingly strong freshman debut led to sophomore and junior campaigns that didn't quite measure up in production, the question was on the table: the physical skills were there, the opportunity was there, but would Gilberry be able to put it all together in his last season?
For Greenwood, one of Gilberry's best friends and a player whose college plot has followed along many of the same lines, 2008 brings many of the same questions.
"I didn't finish last year like I wanted," Greenwood said. "My injury kind of slowed me down so I've definitely got to finish strong (this year). Playing in the NFL is my dream, and this is my last shot."
If comparisons are to be made between Greenwood and Gilberry, they have to begin with when the two first began their Alabama careers during their respective freshman seasons. For Gilberry, after taking a redshirt in 2003, the 2004 season was one where he made the absolute most of every minute he was on the playing field. Despite being second-string on the Alabama depth chart, Gilberry recorded 28 tackles, leading Alabama with 6.5 sacks and 13 tackles-for-loss. He also caused and recovered a pair of fumbles.
Likewise, Greenwood's freshman year saw the Prattville native arrive on the scene in similar fashion, with Greenwood seeing action in every game. In 12 games, he recorded 15 tackles, but five tackles-for-loss and three sacks were included, with five quarterback pressures.
The strong performances by the two men during their freshmen years set high expectations for their future careers. For Gilberry, however, it wasn't until the 2007 season that he reflected the prowess he showed as a freshman. In his sophomore and junior seasons combined, Gilberry had only five sacks and 20 tackles-for-loss. Likewise, for Greenwood, the 2006 and 2007 seasons saw his production dip, with a total of 3.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles-for-loss coming in the two years.
For Gilberry, however, the light came on his senior year. In 2007, Gilberry recorded 80 tackles, good enough for second overall on the Alabama defense. Included in the total were 10 sacks, 15 quarterback pressures and a monster 27 tackles-for-loss -- the second-highest single-season total in school history.
The stats tell the story: no one has to tell Bobby Greenwood of the importance of a senior year. Thanks in large part to his, Wallace Gilberry left the Alabama campus second in school history in stops behind the line of scrimmage, 10th in quarterback pressures and fifth all-time in sacks.
Before he left the University of Alabama for the National Football League, Gilberry worked with Greenwood throughout his senior year on the most important components of being a successful defensive lineman in Alabama coach Nick Saban's 3-4 defensive scheme.
"Wallace is a good friend of mine and he taught me a lot," Greenwood said. "I kept my ears open and he helped me with my technique and my pass rush, which is what I've been working on a lot this summer.
"He took everything to a whole new level last year. His intensity was the biggest factor."
For Greenwood, last year's story differed from Gilberry's in one major aspect--in Alabama's 21-14 loss to Florida State on Sept. 29. , Greenwood took a cut block to the outside of his ankle, aggravating an old injury. With no surgery, he chose to simply work through the injury and rehab it, but the pain was severe enough to cause him to miss Alabama's homecoming game against Houston.
In the injury-shortened year, Greenwood had 20 total tackles with one sack. His slowed production, he said, can be attributed to the collateral damage that comes with re-aggravating an ankle injury.
"You don't really realize how important the ankle is until you hurt it," Greenwood said. "I couldn't do anything off the line, explode, or anything like that."
This season, with the ankle healed, Greenwood knows it is his last chance to contribute to a defense trying to put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Alongside Greenwood on the line are a number of familiar faces back from last season and one very large new one: junior college transfer Terrence Cody, who has anchored the nose position with Josh Chapman.
"They really stepped up in camp and especially in the summer," Greenwood said. "Me and (junior defensive lineman) Brandon Deaderick made sure we coached up the younger guys and we kind of ran through some plays with them and definitely focused on the technique part with them with what coach would want from them so they could kind of get a head start heading into camp.
"A lot of freshmen came in and stepped in great, especially Marcel Dareus and Terrence Cody, and they stepped up big in practice. I think that's big. All the new guys took it serious and that was a big step forward for us."
Bobby Greenwood knows the comparisons between he and Wallace Gilberry are there. Through three seasons on the Alabama defense, the story plots are remarkably similar leading up to their senior seasons. Now, with one year to go and the ending yet to be determined, Greenwood's, perhaps, may unfold with the help of his defensive line teammates.
And that would be just fine with him.
"D-line's a family this year," Greenwood said. "We hang out all the time and it's hard when you can't play off each other. That's the difference in a good defensive line and a bad defensive line."