Mark BarronBy Will Hiemenz
Mark Barron is a 210-pound defensive back out of Mobile, Alabama. He attended St. Paul's High School and starts at strong safety. Barron earned first-team All SEC and third-team Associated Press All-American in 2009. Nicknamed "Superman" for his freakish vertical jumping ability, Barron led the SEC in interceptions last year with seven. Barron also ranked third on the team with 11 pass breakups.
Barron is the only returning starter in the defensive secondary and is expected to be one of the main leaders. He has been named to the 2010 Jim Thorpe Award preseason watch list, which is awarded to the top defensive back in college football. Barron also recently received the Lee Roy Jordan Headhunter Award following 2010 spring drills.
Barron is already considered a very strong NFL prospect and NFLDraftScout.com has him rated as the second best safety in the 2012 class. Expect an even more improved player and leader from Barron for the Tide’s upcoming 2010 season.
Josh ChapmanBy Ashley Swafford
Junior nose tackle Josh Chapman has big shoes to fill for this upcoming season, replacing two-time All-American Terrence Cody. Chapman will step up from being a backup to becoming the key player in the Crimson Tide’s defensive line.
Because Cody wore a strong but sluggish 360-pound frame, Chapman often replaced him in passing situations during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. At a leaner 310 pounds, Chapman is expected to start as an every down player and pass rusher.
In his career with the Tide, Chapman has played in a total of 29 games, making two career starts. He has a recorded 34 tackles, with one coming from his freshman year before he earned a medical redshirt. Of those tackles, he recorded 6.5 tackles for a loss.
Although Cody was a key factor in the making of Alabama’s 2009 national championship debut, Josh Chapman’s strength, build and speed could pave the way to another title. In previous seasons, the he was always hot off the bench. If all continues well, Chapman will maintain his successful record as a starter.
Marcell DareusBy Jon Ballenger
Marcell Dareus is a junior defensive end from Huffman High School in Birmingham. Dareus pronounced his ability on the biggest stage last year, having a huge game versus Texas in the National Championship game. Dareus scored on an interception and also was responsible for knocking Texas star quarterback Colt McCoy out of the game. His performance earned him defensive MVP honors.
Dareus has a big frame at 6'3", 280 pounds but is still very athletic for his size. Given his size, he is a prototypical 3-4 defensive end that is also capable of sliding inside as well.
Coming into his junior season, Dareus will be expected to play a huge role for the Tide both on and off the field. He is one of the few returning starters for Alabama on defense and is on the pre-season watch for the Lombardi Award, which goes to the nation's top defensive linemen or linebacker. Dareus didn't get complacent after his eye-opening performance at the Rose Bowl, exemplified by his winning the Leroy Jordan Headhunter Award for his performances at spring practice.
As the Crimson Tide prepare for the start of its title defense in 2010, the eligibility of Dareus remains a question mark, as the NCAA has yet to come down on the player. Dareus attended a party in Miami with a number of other college athletes around the country, but it is yet to be determined if he did anything that warrants a suspension.
Jerrell HarrisBy Ashley Swafford
Jerrell Harris enters his true junior year at Alabama looking highly promising for the 2010 season. Although he missed his big opportunity in 2009 due to a NCAA rule violation, Harris has earned the position of weak side linebacker for the 2010 defense. Harris has played in nearly every position of the Tide’s 3-4 defensive scheme over the years. As a freshman, Harris played in 10 games, making appearances on special teams and as a backup outside linebacker. Harris proved his versatility in last year’s preseason practices by playing both on the inside and outside. He was the top linebacker ready to begin battling for a chance to fill a permanent position.
However, his extra benefit rule violation cost him that chance of filling the starting linebacker position along with six games. Upon his return to the 2009 season, Harris was restricted to special teams plays only. However, in this year’s preseason practices, Harris has already shown his playmaker instinct and shines in pass coverage. Over the past year, Harris has gained 13 pounds of muscle to his 6-3 frame for better block protection. With three defensive line positions to be filled this season, Harris is assumed to have one.
Dont'a HightowerBy Jon Ballenger
Donta'a Hightower played as a true freshman in 2008, and it was evident from the start that Alabama had some new, fresh talent. To the Crimson Tide nation, Hightower seems similar to Rolando McClain in his potential.
Hightower is from Marshall County High School in Lewisburg, Tennessee. He comes in at 6'4, 260 pounds and is one of the most highly touted inside linebackers in the country. Hightower's sophomore season ended early versus Arkansas, where he tore his ACL. Hightower appears to have recovered completely, and he has said he believes he is a better player than before he got injured. Another good piece of news for Tide fans is that Hightower earned a medical redshirt last year, which means he will only be a sophomore on the football field this season.
Like Marcell Dareus on the defensive line, Hightower will be counted on mightily to lead this linebacking core. McClain's ability was evident, and his ability to adjust the defense as an on the field coach will be tough to replace. No one doubts Hightower's ability, but he has large shoes to fill as a field general out there.
Hightower was an All-SEC freshman in 2008, and looked on track to best that before he was injured last season. Hightower appears to be back in the shape he was in pre-injury, but until he goes out there and does out week-in week-out, Tide fans will still be a little nervous.
Mark IngramBy Jon Ballenger
Mark Ingram is starting in his junior year as running back for the Crimson Tide, having come all the way from Flint, Michigan. In his sophomore season, he he brought home Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy, adding to the Tide’s illustrious history. Ingram was just the third player ever to win the award as an underclassman. He has enjoyed a wildly successful career in his first two seasons at the Capstone, where the Tide teams has an overall combined 26-2 record since his arrival. Last year alone, he racked up 1,658 yards rushing and gained 334 yards receiving. Ingram was also awarded the Doak Walker award in 2009, which goes to the nation’s top running back.
Ingram was influential in helping Alabama defeat Texas in the BCS National Championship last season, where has was named Offensive MVP for the game having scored two touchdowns with 116 yards against the Longhorns’ No. 1 rush defense.
As a freshman, Ingram made a name for himself when he was the No. 2 running back behind Glen Coffee. In the 2008 season, he had 728 yards on 143 carries with a team-best 12 touchdowns, setting a freshman record.
He was a four-star recruit by most publications coming out of high school. For the 2010 season, he will face high expectations, where his team will try and defend its national championship, and he will try to improve on his Heisman-winning season.
Barrett JonesBy Morgan Upton
Barrett Jones has a promising year ahead at Alabama. He is looking to continue starting at right guard in his junior year at the Capstone.
Jones comes in to the 2010-11 season with many accolades. He was voted second-team CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American in 2009. He also received the Jerry Duncan “I Like Practice” award after spring training in 2009. In 2010, Jones was awarded the Derrick Thomas Community Service award after he spent his spring break helping earthquake victims in Haiti. He was also named to the 2010 Preseason All-SEC first team by the league's coaches.
In the 2009 season, Jones had recovered 100 percent from his injury in the previous season. He became one of three new additions to the starting offensive line. He replaced Marlon Davis at the right guard position. He started in all fourteen games for the Tide, helping Alabama amass 403 yards of total offense per game.
Jones received his first start against Virginia Tech. He had a part in an outstanding offensive season for the Tide. He blocked for Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram, both would receive awards throughout the season including the SEC Offensive Player of the Week and the Heisman trophy.
Jones was redshirted his freshman year at the Capstone. He played in three games before a shoulder injury ended his season. He competed in the Western Kentucky game, as well as two SEC games at Arkansas and against Kentucky. He was able to receive a medical redshirt.
Jones came to Alabama in 2008 after playing high school football at Evangelical Christian. In 2007 he was listed as a U.S. Army All-American. He was also listed as the No.1 player in Tennessee and the No. 20 offensive lineman nationally by SuperPrep.
Julio JonesBy Marquavius Burnett
Wide receiver Julio Jones may be one of the most highly-recruited players in Alabama football history. Coming out of high school, he was the No. 2-ranked prospect by ESPN.com and the No. 1 ranked player in the country by Sports Illustrated/Takkle.com.
During his stellar freshman year, Jones lived up to the hype. He recorded a team-high 58 receptions for 924 yards and four touchdowns. All of those statistics set Alabama freshman records and earned him Freshman All-SEC and Freshman All-American Honors.
Jones next year would be what some would call a sophomore slump. Due to injuries, Jones finished the season with a team-best 43 receptions for 596 yards and four touchdowns. Despite his production being down, Jones still played big for the Tide when it mattered most. Twenty-six of his 43 catches went for first downs, and against LSU’s stout defense, he had his biggest game of the season, four catches for 102 yards and the games go-ahead touchdown.
This year, Jones will look to prove that when completely healthy, he is still one of the best wide receivers in all of college football. For the second straight year, he was selected as a Playboy Preseason All-American.
Marquis MazeBy Jordan Eichenblatt
The 2009 A-Day MVP returns for his third season for the Crimson Tide. Junior Marquis Maze will not only be taking the role as wide receiver but also the role as kick returner and punt returner. Maze will share those two roles with Trent Richardson and Julio Jones. In 2009, he had a 48-yard reception against Virginia Tech that set up a key touchdown for the Tide. He led all wide receivers in the LSU game with six receptions.
In the SEC Championship game against Florida last season in Atlanta, Maze had 96 yards, a career best. Each of his five receptions that game set up a touchdown for the Tide. This year, Maze will be apart of a dangerous trio of wide receivers. With his ability to get open and shake off his defender, Maze could be the go-to receiver in many of the games.
Also look for Maze on the “Wild Tide” formation to take the ball on a reverse. Last year he had three rush attempts in the “Wild Tide” formation. Maze hails from Birmingham where in high school he was a quarterback and a wide receiver.
A.J. McCarronBy Jon Ballenger
Hailing from St. Paul’s Episcopal High School in Mobile, quarterback A.J. McCarron was a redshirt freshman 2009, in which he was the lone quarterback in the 2009 recruiting class. McCarron is slated to be the team’s backup to senior quarterback Greg McElroy in 2010 and is expected to take over the starting job in 2011 after McElroy graduates. Since he was a redshirt in his first year at Alabama, this season will be his first opportunity to see game action.
McCarron threw for 6,066 yards, 66 touchdowns and just nine interceptions as a three-year starting quarterback at Saint Paul's. The Elite 11 quarterback has a strong and accurate arm. McCarron was a SuperPrep All-American and listed as the publication's No. 9 quarterback. McCarron was a U.S. Army All-American, and also SuperPrep's fifth-ranked player in the state of Alabama. He was ranked as the nation's No. 37 overall prospect in the ESPNU 150 and as its No. 4 quarterback overall. He played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Football Classic where he was named the game's MVP.
The two-time all-state quarterback has high expectations from the Crimson Tide in the near future. McCarron chose to play for the Tide over Miami (Fla.), Oklahoma, Auburn, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Florida State, Georgia, West Virginia and Purdue.
Greg McElroyBy Jordan Eichenblatt
The SEC Championship offensive MVP returns to the Tide for his senior season. As one of the leaders on the team, McElroy is coming off a 2,508 passing yard season with 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions, completing 60.9 percent of his passes giving him the highest rank in school history. The three-time SEC All Academic Honor Roll was named second team preseason All SEC by the SEC Coaches.
McElroy has not thrown an interception in his last 98 passing attempts and will try to continue that record. In his second year as the starter at the quarterback position, McElroy is on the watch list of the Davey O’Brien award, the award for the best collegiate quarterback of the year. McElroy, who has not lost a game since eighth grade, is expected to do big things for the Tide.
With Heisman running back Mark Ingram out of play for the first game and possibly longer, McElroy is expected to find his three dangerous wide receivers more with a projection of 2,500 yards passing or more.
McElroy hails from Texas where in high school he was back up to college football star on the Mizzou Tigers and current New Orleans Saint, Chase Daniels.
Aside from football, McElroy exceeds in the classroom. He’s been in the process of applying for a Rhodes scholarship, a scholarship sending the recipient to Oxford University in England.
Trent RichardsonBy Marquavius Burnett
With a rare combination of size, speed and elusiveness, Trent Richardson proved during his freshman campaign why experts have compared him to Dallas Cowboy legend Emmitt Smith. Finishing the season with 751 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 145 touches, Richardson earned himself Freshman All-SEC honors. He was also reliable catching the ball out of the backfield, recording 16 receptions for 126 yards.
Coming out of high school, Richardson was ranked as the No. 6 player overall by Rivals.com. He was the top-ranked player in the state of Florida and the No. 2-ranked running back in the nation.
Richardson has the power to break tackles and gain yards after contact with the speed of a sprinter. He will be a huge part of the Crimson Tide offense as Alabama looks to repeat as national champions.
Some say that besides the offensive line, Richardson was one of the most important factors in running back Mark Ingram winning the Heisman trophy because of his ability to come in and spell Ingram.
During his sophomore campaign, Richardson will look to prove that he is more than capable of splitting carries with Ingram or being the main guy if Ingram is not available.
William VlachosBy Morgan Upton
William Vlachos begins his second year as starting center. He has a promising year ahead of him. Vlachos is in his junior year at Alabama and will be the starting center for the second consecutive year. He is considered one of the top centers in college football and has been added to the watch list for the 2010 Rimington Trophy, which is given to the top center in the nation.
Vlachos missed spring practice due to offseason foot surgery. He is reported to be ahead of schedule for recovery and should be 100 percent by Saturday’s opener against San Jose State.
With significant losses to the offensive line, Vlachos had the opportunity to become a starter in 2009. Vlachos got his first start against Virginia Tech when he replaced former center Antoine Caldwell. During the 2009-10 season, Vlachos started every game as center for the Tide.
He helped Alabama’s offensive amass 403 yards of total offense per game. Alabama’s offense was also able to gain 215 rushing yards per contest, ranking the Crimson Tide 12th in the nation. Vlachos blocked for Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram, both of whom received SEC Offensive Player of the Week awards. Ingram also became the first player from Alabama to ever win the Heisman Trophy.
In his sophomore year at the Capstone, Vlachos was used as a reserve lineman in the 2008 season. He played in seven of the Tide’s games including Tulane, Western Kentucky, Arkansas, Arkansas State, Mississippi State, Kentucky, and the Allstate Sugar Bowl versus Utah.
In his freshman year in 2008, Vlachos only saw action in one game, against Western Carolina.
Vlachos hales from Mountain Brook, where he was a prep star at Mountain Brook High School. He was ranked as the ninth best center nationally by Rivals.com and 19th by Scout.com. The Birmingham News voted Vlachos 6A All-State selection and Super All-State team member. He played every snap in the 2006 Alabama North-South All-Star game.