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Depth Chart Release Brings Surprises

Prior to the start of his press conference a few minutes ago, Alabama head coach Nick Saban released the much-anticipated depth chart. Some things were as expected, but there were some legitimately surprises as well. As an initial primer, the high points:

  • DeQuan Menzie is listed as the starting cornerback opposite Dre Kirkpatrick, while B.J. Scott is in a back-up role. This has to be the surprise of camp to date, no doubt about it. Most expected Menzie to have to redshirt after his Achilles injury, and with him being able to not only come in and play immediately but to beat out Scott as the starting cornerback is hard to believe. Scott and Milliner are listed as the back-ups to Menzie, while Phelon Jones and John Fulton are listed as the back-ups to Kirkpatrick. In reality, though, I imagine that Scott and Milliner are the third and fourth cornerbacks in the rotation.
  • Menzie will also be the first choice at the star position, according to Saban. That is big news if Menzie can stay healthy because that will allow Barron to remain at safety -- which helps quality depth there -- and it likely opens a path for either Scott or Milliner to come in on nickel packages and play outside at corner, much like Marquis Johnson did a year ago. Given the prevalence of the nickel package in Saban's defense, while not listed as a starter, the third corner will nevertheless play a lot of snaps.
  • Chavis Williams is listed as the starting linebacker at Sam, while Jerrell Harris is listed as the starting linebacker at Will. Surprisingly enough, Chris Jordan was not listed as a starter. For what it's worth, Saban said in his press conference a few minutes ago that Williams' progress at Sam allowed the coaching staff to move Harris inside, so at least it seems like a move that was made from a position of strength.
  • C.J. Mosley is listed as the back-up to Jerrell Harris at Will, and Saban explicitly referred to him as someone who "gets it." Obviously you can forget about him getting a redshirt, and that likely means that Chris Jordan has been moved full-time to Mike, which is a nice move for him because that will effectively allow him on the field every time we move Hightower to the edge to use him as a pass rusher.
  • Josh Chapman is listed as the starter at nose guard over Kerry Murphy, but based on Saban's comments I don't think it means anything. He said they had been back and forth all Fall, and that Chapman's experience is giving him the edge at the moment. In the end, I doubt it matters very much because both players will split time to the point that the starter designation becomes meaningless.
  • Robert Lester is listed as the starter opposite Mark Barron at safety. We'll see if that's a good thing or not. For what it's worth, Will Lowery, Nick Perry, and Jarrick Williams are the back-ups at safety. No real mention yet on how those players will be used.
  • Eddie Lacy was listed as the third tailback, no major surprise given the nagging injuries that have been suffered by Demetrius Goode.
  • Barrett Jones is listed as the starter at right guard, with D.J. Fluker as the starter at right tackle. For now, the offensive line is shaping up exactly like what was expected much of Fall camp. 
  • On special teams, both Foster and Shelley are listed at kicker while both Mandell and Williams are listed at punter. Julio Jones is the punt returner, with Julio and Trent Richardson listed as kick returners. Everything is largely as expected with the special teams.

For the most part, everything else was largely as expected. With the offensive line set, the rest of the offense saw no surprises with the skill position players, and on the defensive side of the ball it was much of the same. Luther Davis and Marcell Dareus play the end positions, Hightower is at Mike, Upshaw at Jack, and Barron at safety. Again, no real surprises in that regard.

In any event, we'll see how things develop from here. It goes without saying that this is all very fluid moving forward, and there is the standard caveat that a generic depth chart is not necessarily indicative of how players will actually be used in specific game situations. Nevertheless, it's nice to have a general idea in mind of who is where in the pecking order, and if nothing else this provides us with some context. I'll have some more thoughts on all of this later on.