In 2011, the Alabama Crimson Tide will have a defense with several playmakers and possibly several All-Conference players in the mix. Picking one of them as a player to watch is a difficult task. Dont’a Hightower is the leader of the defense and the defensive backfield is loaded with possible first-round NFL talent but in our opinion, the player to watch on this defense is LB Courtney Upshaw.
As a junior in 2010, Upshaw made 11 starts at jack linebacker position, an extremely important position in Nick Saban’s defense, and recorded 52 tackles. Upshaw has shown the ability to be an elite pass rusher off the end and makes his presence known in the backfield on a regular basis. In 2010 he led the Crimson Tide with 14.5 tackles for a loss and also led the team in sacks with 7. In the final two games alone, against Auburn and Michigan State, Upshaw recorded 15 tackles, 6 for a loss with 5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles.
Odds are that once all is said and done, Alabama will have a defense ranked somewhere in the top 10 nationally and possibly in the top 5. Upshaw will be a large part of whether the Tide is successful or not, as he will be one of the main pass rushing threats on this year’s defense. Nick Saban himself talked at SEC Media Days about the fact that the team does not have that elite front line defensive lineman that they have had in years past, so Upshaw’s ability to attack the passer and cause mayhem in the backfield will be a huge key to the units’ success.
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