BOL breaks down the Tide's Ten Most Important going into the season:
Barrett Jones could play anywhere on the OL
1.] OL Barrett Jones: In addition to entering his third year as a starter, this guy is a one-man depth chart who is capable of playing any spot along the offensive line. When he's not busy earning all-america honors or graduating in three years, he also serves as the moral compass for the program.
2.] S Mark Barron: Sort of the defensive version of Jones in that his versatility keys the defense's base and sub packages. More NFL ready than any other player on a team loaded with Sunday prospects.
3.] LB Dont'a Hightower: Noticing a trend here? Versatility reigns supreme on this list. Along with Courtney Upshaw, Hightower is one of just two UA linebackers who won't come off the field. Pass rush presence should become even larger in 2011.
4.] JLB Courtney Upshaw: Led by Adrian Hubbard and Xzavier Dickson, UA has some promising prospects at jack. Still, the dropoff from Upshaw to those guys is sizeable. Opposing offenses game-planned for Marcell Dareus in 2010. That distinction will go to Upshaw this fall, especially in passing situations.
5.] RB Trent Richardson: This is the season Richardson has been waiting on. No more questions about how many carries the junior will get in relief of Mark Ingram. The ball is his and if he can stay healthy he might just carry it all the way to New York City.
6.] C William Vlachos: Experienced and two-dollar steak tough, Vlachos makes anyone who plays next to him better. Jones can fill in if needed, but losing Vlachos would weaken the offensive line at two spots.
7.] QBs AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims: There doesn't appear to be much separation between these two on the field so we'll continue to go the conjoined route here. We'll know a lot more about who "the guy" really is in exactly a month's time.
8.] CB DeQuan Menzie: Another versatile performer who can start at corner in the base defense and slide to star in the nickle and dime packages. More than a year removed from an Achilles tear, look for a more active and productive Menzie in his second and final season at UA.
9.] CB Dre Kirkpatrick: Talent has never been the issue where Kirkpatrick is concerned. Has all the physical tools needed to be the shutdown corner many expected when he signed with UA in 2009. Most encouraging have been the reports of a more mature Kirkpatrick. We'll find out if the Gadsden native has truly put it all together soon enough.
10.] WR Marquis Maze: Not only will Maze be counted on more in the passing game, but he'll also be very involved in the return game. Both he and Darius Hanks are undervalued as blockers in the running game.
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