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A Salute to the 2014 Alabama Seniors: Brandon Ivory

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The rare three-star recruit who became a pivotal part of a Nick Saban defense, Brandon Ivory was heir to Terrence Cody and Josh Chapman.

Ivory eating blocks for lunch against Western Carolina
Ivory eating blocks for lunch against Western Carolina
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Ivory represents an anomaly regarding the Saban era of Alabama football. He was anything but highly-touted coming out of high school, a rare three-star recruit who joined the Tide's usual haul of Army All-Americans and SuperPrep all-stars.

However, despite the lack of accolades and celestial metaphors, Ivory used his time at the Capstone well (aside from the occasional suspension), evolving into a run-plugging nose tackle with the ability to eat blocks and anchor Alabama's formidable 3-4 base defense. While Ivory's use in his senior campaign was rather limited due to injuries, suspension and the evolution of Nick Saban's scheme, Ivory will still get looks as a free-agent at the next level.

How did the huge defensive tackle carve out a niche among four- and five-star athletes and make a name for himself as a member of several championship-caliber Crimson Tide defenses? Let's take a closer look...

High School

Ivory wasn't at the top of anyone's wish list coming out of high school...at least no university in the SEC coveted him or his game. A fire-pluggish defensive lineman out of Memphis, TN's East High School, Ivory had great size indeed, but up until Signing Day, his best offers had come from hometown favorite Memphis and Southern Mississippi.

However, a late offer from Saban's Crimson Tide came his way, and the 6'4" 308 pound run-stopper leapt at the chance. Saban had already taken an unknown, unheralded juco transfer with gargantuan size to the DL Promised Land via his 3-4 defense, and Ivory seemed to be the next in line following the eventual departure of Terrence Cody. As a high school recruit, Ivory was ranked 73rd among defensive linemen by Rivals and posted 4 tackles in 2009.

The Early Years

With Cody still holding down the nose tackle position in 2010, Ivory saw an eventual redshirt season in his first year in Tuscaloosa. However, with Cody gone on to the NFL's Baltimore Ravens for the 2011 season, Ivory spelled in behind current Indianapolis Colt Josh Chapman at the nose, seeing the field in four games and accruing five tackles.

Ivory saw his role increase in 2012 as part of one of the best Tide defenses of the decade, getting his first start against Western Kentucky and playing in 13 games. The Tide defense utilizes a sizable defensive line rotation to keep players fresh, but despite this, Ivory saw a great deal of playing time, especially against run-heavy offenses in which his tremendous size and gap-filling ability came into play. During the 2012 championship season, Ivory saw his stat line improve, as he was credited with 22 tackles, one quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery.

Ivory, the Upperclassman

With a year of playing time and steady contribution under his belt, Ivory truly began to evolve into the kind of nose tackle favored by Saban in his early years in Tuscaloosa. As the interior lineman of choice in Saban's 3-4 system, Ivory was a steady contributor for Alabama. In 2013, he started in 12 games as the Tide's go-to nose, missing only the Tennessee game due to injury. In that campaign, Ivory made 24 tackles (eight solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, one pass broke-up and one quarterback hurry. Based on the strength of his play as a junior, Ivory was named to several honorable mention All-SEC teams, the first such accolades of his career.

While the table was set for Ivory to seemingly have a breakout year as a senior in 2014, such was not the case. First, Ivory began the season suspended after an ever-mysterious pre-season "violation of team rules." While this complicated his situation, it was not the sole reason that Ivory was little utilized in the 2014 edition of the Alabama defense.

Unfortunately for the nose tackle, Ivory came to the table during an era in which offensive philosophies began to change dramatically in the SEC, from the traditional pro-style power running offenses to the more aerial spread-type offenses. Given his size and strength, alongside of his lack of speed and plodding footwork, Ivory simply wasn't well-suited for defensing the high-powered offenses that began to become prolific. Saban bemoaned the changing times, but grudgingly began to recruit and coach lighter, more fleet-footed defensive linemen to attack the new offenses. Because of this, Ivory became a bit of a dinosaur in Alabama's still-evolving defense, thus ceding playing time to players more suited to the changing nature of the defensive game.

As a result, Ivory only played in five games for Alabama as a senior, accruing 13 tackles during that span along with 0.5 tackle for loss. Ivory also had injury issues that plagued him throughout 2014, thus limiting the impact he could have made if healthy. His shining moment in 2014 came against a likely culprit in run-heavy LSU, a team which continues to run the ball with a stable of backs churning behind a burly offensive line. LSU's offense was tailor-made for Ivory's game, and as a result, he had a season high eight tackles against the Bayou Bengals.

Beyond Alabama

Despite his rather pedestrian statistics over the final year of his Alabama career, because of his size and performance against running offenses, Ivory could enjoy some success in this year's NFL Draft (or in free agency thereafter.) While not among the most highly coveted defensive linemen available this year, Ivory has NFL size and is forecast as a possible seventh round/ free agent possibility in this year's draft. While he is not the most fleet of foot (his 40 time is 5.38), Ivory is rated as the 26th rated defensive tackle (out of 192) available in the draft.

Rob Rang of nfldraftscout.com said that Ivory "has the prototypical squatty frame for a defensive tackle with good power and surge...however he has average lateral agility, balance and speed..." He indicated that while Ivory could make a good situation tackle for some NFL teams, he is a "one-trick pony" as a block eater and run stuffer.

Though Ivory didn't necessarily see his career ended in the way he had hoped, he did get a chance to play on a team that won two national championships in his tenure at Alabama, with a shot at the third in the recent College Football Playoffs. With any luck (and a good combine), Ivory could see his playing days extended as an interior lineman in the League.