Alabama Football: 'Bama Depth Chart Released with a Few Surprises

Jimmy McMurreyAnalyst IIAugust 29, 2012

Jan 9, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Vinnie Sunseri (3) reacts after a play against the LSU Tigers during the BCS National Championship game at the Louisiana Superdome.  Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE
Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE

Nick Saban and Alabama have released the first depth chart of the year and it contains the names of the players that will take the field first against Michigan on Saturday, but some names are something even the best arm chair quarterback could not predict. provided the depth chart released by Alabama, and though most of the positions are as expected, there are a few spots that have come as a bit of a surprise. 

Here are the positions that make the first depth chart of the season both exciting, interesting, surprising, and a few reasons why they should not have been surprises.

H-back Starter: Kelly Johnson, Senior, 6'3", 230 lbs.

For some time, folks have been expecting Brian Vogler or Harrison Jones (Barrett's lil' bro) to be on the field at the same time as tight end Michael Williams.

It turns out that Vogler is Williams' backup and Jones is Kelly Johnson's backup.

Kelly Johnson? It's linebacker Chavis Williams (now a Baltimore Raven) winning a starting spot in 2010 all over again.

Johnson, who was a linebacker until spring 2012, has come out of left field to become the starter at a very important and very underrated position for the Tide.

It's not surprising that Saban selected yet another senior for this role, as his predecessors Brad Smelley and Preston Dial were seniors and almost the exact same height and weight as well.

What is surprising is that Saban selected a guy that many fans have never even heard of who has only been practicing his position for less than half a year.

One thing is certain: Since Johnson won this starting role he must have one hell of a soft pair of hands.

He is also the backup long snapper behind Carson Tinker.

Running Back Backup: Jalston Fowler, Junior, 6'1", 242 lbs.

Jalston Fowler is a popular name among Tide fans after beating up on some weak competition last year, but quite frankly the young lad has done nothing to prove himself against quality opponents because Saban never gave him the chance.

If Saban doesn't give you a chance, then he doesn't think you can pull it off, and Saban is always right.

Fowler is the second-string running back behind Eddie Lacy but he shares his position with T.J. Yeldon. The fact that Fowler may get more carries this year than Yeldon is a surprise in itself.

The record of Fowler's carries is dubious at best; he did not receive carries during Alabama's four closest games. Against Penn State (W, 27-11), LSU (L, 6-9), Mississippi State (W, 24-7), and LSU Rd. II (W, 21-0), he did not carry the ball even once, despite Eddie Lacy being limited in the latter three games.

After Yeldon's incredible spring performance, it can be inferred that Fowler (who has had no lateral agility in the past) must have had a great fall practice to be considered on the same level.

Kickoffs: Cade Foster, Junior, 6'1", 218 lbs.

After Cade Foster's meager five touchbacks on 81 kickoffs in 2011 and multiple missed field goals, many folks were expecting newcomer Adam Griffith (the Polish kid with the golden leg) to at least be doing kickoffs once the season started.

Instead, Foster will again be the guy performing the kickoffs for the Tide. It's a bit of a surprise, but a closer look can explain the method behind the madness.

First, the new college rules have kickoffs coming from the 35-yard line. Most of Foster's kickoffs in 2011 landed between the 10- and 15-yard line. While the new rule still won't result in touchbacks for Foster, it will allow shorter returns as Foster's fairly short kicks often go sky-high.

Second, Foster is one bulky kicker. His size has allowed him to make great tackles after the kickoff in the past two years, something that just might be more important to Nick Saban. Adam Griffith is a twig at 5'11", 175 lbs.

Field-Goal Holder Backup: Vinnie Sunseri, Sophomore, 6'0", 215 lbs.

Quarterback A.J. McCarron will again be the primary field-goal holder for trick play potential, but the selection of Sunseri as backup is an interesting one.

As far as fans and opponents know, Sunseri can't throw the ball with any effect, so what would be the purpose of having him as a field-goal holder at any time?

It's a bit of a surprise, but in a way it makes sense. After seeing what he could do with the ball after creating turnovers, it is obvious he is quite capable as a ball-carrier.

Does this mean Sunseri may take snaps as a field-goal holder on a trick play only to take off running for a first down?

Jack Linebacker: Xzavier Dickson, Sophomore, 6'3", 262 lbs.

Linebacker Adrian Hubbard had a stellar spring scrimmage and looked to be Alabama's next great Jack linebacker. Many folks thought he would be the starter there.

His experience and ability at the Sam linebacker position dictated he would be more valuable there, and Dickson was the natural choice after packing on more than 20 pounds since arriving at the Capstone.

But then again, the difference between Jack and Sam will be negligible this year. Saban and Kirby Smart are going to use the creatively and blitz them relentlessly, regardless of which side the opposing tight end lines up on.

It was still, in a way, a bit of a surprise to see Dickson rocket up the depth chart and become the starter at one of the most important positions on Alabama's defensive front seven.

Jack Linebacker Backup: Denzel Devall, True Freshman, 6'2", 243 lbs.

The surprise of Denzel Devall becoming the backup Jack linebacker is three-fold.

First, Devall is a true freshman and second-string players at Alabama get a lot of playing time. That means that Saban is either really desperate or Devall is just that good. Want to take a guess at which is the real reason?

Second, Devall was predicted to play inside linebacker at the college level. During the fall he continually practiced with the outside linebackers, but everything seemed to be an experiment. He was, after all, a true freshman with a lot of potential and versatility. It's safe to say the experiment is over.

Third, Devall won the backup role over redshirt junior William Ming. To me that is an amazing feat. The 6'3", 283-pound Ming switched to Jack linebacker before the 2011 season and looked to be the real deal.

Back in high school (when he weighed over 260 lbs.) Ming ran an unofficial 40-yard time of 4.7 seconds while posting a 3.93 GPA.

I expected Ming to push for the starting role all through fall camp and the entire season as well. For Saban to put this much faith in Devall is not a knock on Ming, but a testament to Devall himself.

Left Defensive End: Ed Stinson, Junior, 6'4", 282 lbs.

Ed Stinson has been a project player that has taken quite a time to develop after he redshirted in 2009.

He became a quality backup in 2011 and for a time looked to maintain that role. That is because JUCO transfer Quinton Dial seemed like a shoe-in for the starting role. 

Dial, a senior at 6'6" and 304 lbs., is a much more daunting player who many (including myself) expected to earn the starting role. 

Those that follow Alabama football closely knew that Stinson would see a lot of playing time, but to see him earn a start against one of the Tide's toughest 2012 opponents is quite a surprise.

The Depth Chart (from


Left Defensive End
Ed Stinson, Jr.
Jeoffrey Pagan, So.

Nose Tackle
Jesse Williams, Sr.
Brandon Ivory, So.

Right Defensive End
Damion Square, Sr.
Quinton Dial, Sr.

Sam Linebacker
Adrian Hubbard, So.
Jonathan Atchison, Jr.

Mike Linebacker
Trey DePriest, So. -OR- Nico Johnson, Sr.
Reggie Ragland, Fr.

Will Linebacker
Nico Johnson, Sr. -OR- C.J. Mosley, Jr.
Tana Patrick, Jr.

Jack Linebacker   
Xzavier Dickson, So.
Denzel Devall, Fr.

Deion Belue, Jr.
Geno Smith, Fr.

Dee Milliner, Jr.
John Fulton, Jr.

Strong Safety
Robert Lester, Sr.
Nick Perry, Jr.

Free Safety
Vinnie Sunseri, So. -OR- 6 - HaHa Clinton-Dix, So.
Landon Collins, Fr.


Left Tackle
Cyrus Kouandjio, So.
Kellen Williams, Jr.

Left Guard
Chance Warmack, Sr.
Chad Lindsay, So.

Barrett Jones, Sr.
Ryan Kelly, RFr.

Right Guard
Anthony Steen, Jr.
Arie Kouandjio, So.

Right Tackle
D.J. Fluker, Jr.
Austin Shepherd, So.

Tight End
Michael Williams, Sr.
Brian Vogler, So.

Tight End/H-Back
Kelly Johnson, Sr.
Harrison Jones, So.
Brent Calloway, RFr.

AJ McCarron, Jr.
Phillip Ely, RFr.

Running Back
Eddie Lacy, Jr.
Jalston Fowler, Jr. -OR- 4 - T.J. Yeldon, Fr.
Demetrius Hart, RFr.

Wide Receiver (X)
DeAndrew White, So.
Amari Cooper, Fr.
Marvin Shinn, RFr.

Wide Receiver (Z) 
Kevin Norwood, Jr.
Kenny Bell, Jr.

Wide Receiver (H)
Christion Jones, So.
Cyrus Jones, Fr.

Special teams

Place Kicker       
Jeremy Shelley, Sr. - OR-  Cade Foster, Jr.

Cade Foster, Jr.

AJ McCarron, Jr.
Vinnie Sunseri, So.

Cody Mandell, Jr.
Jeremy Shelley, Sr.

Carson Tinker, Sr.
Kelly Johnson, Sr.

Punt returner
Christion Jones, So.
Dee Hart, RFr.

Kickoff Returner
Christion Jones, So.
Dee Milliner, Jr.
Dee Hart, RFr.
Kevin Norwood, Jr.


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