Alabama Football Year End Awards: Defensive Player of the Year

Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports /

We are now less than a week away from the Alabama Crimson Tide’s date with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Miami with the BCS National Championship on the line. This is the third time in four years the Crimson Tide have played for the coveted crystal pigskin. Here’s hoping that this game goes as well as the last two.

Today, we continue to hand out our end of season awards. Yesterday, we handed out the offensive player of the year award. Now, we’ll move on to the defensive side of the ball to award the best defensive player for the Crimson Tide in 2012.

For all intents and purposes, the 2012 Alabama defense wasn’t as good as the 2011 version, but they acquitted themselves quite nicely this season, and were still statistically one of the best defenses in the country.

The Crimson Tide ranks 1st in run defense, 4th in pass defense, 8th in pass efficiency defense, 2nd in scoring defense, and 1st in total defense.

The pass defense was generally thought to be the Achilles Heel of the Tide, but statistically they performed much better than people would like to give them credit for. They struggled at times, but it’s hard to criticize them for ranking 4th in country in yards allowed through the air.

Much like on offense, there are several players that deserve consideration for defensive player of the year.

We actually ended up with an honorable mention selection and co-defensive players of the year on this team.

Nose tackle Jesse Williams gets the honorable mention nod after an outstanding season manning the middle of the Tide’s defensive line. He was a big reason for the Crimson Tide’s #1 ranking run defense.

What Williams does for Alabama doesn’t normally show up on the statsheet. He doesn’t make a lot of tackles or accumulate a lot of sacks or tackles for loss, but he routinely commands double teams from offensive linemen, which opens up the linebackers to make plays.

Williams does exactly what a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense is supposed to do. You don’t have to look back far to see the impact Williams makes for the Crimson Tide. In the SEC Championship Game against Georgia, Williams left the game with a knee injury and the Bulldogs found success on the ground with freshman running back Todd Gurley.

Williams toughed it out and returned to the game, and shut down the Bulldogs running game to help the Crimson Tide to the 32-28 win. I think it is fair to say that Alabama wouldn’t be playing for the BCS Championship if it wasn’t for him.

Williams was great, but the co-defensive players of the year for the Crimson Tide happen to be the two All Americans on the defensive side of the ball in linebacker C.J. Mosley and cornerback Dee Milliner.

At linebacker, C.J. Mosley has had a tremendous junior season as the unquestioned leader of the Crimson Tide’s defense. He is the team leader in tackles with 99, with no other Tide player having more than 56. He also added 7 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, and 2 interceptions including an interception returned for a touchdown in the season opening thumping of Michigan in Dallas.

The scary part is that Mosley hasn’t been on the field for all of Alabama’s defensive snaps, coming out of the game on obvious running situations in favor of Nico Johnson and Trey DePriest. Mosley is coming back for his senior season in Tuscaloosa in 2013, and he should be an every down player, which is obviously bad news for opposing defenses.

While Alabama’s secondary has been maligned by fans and critics alike, you would be hard pressed to find a better cover corner in the country than Dee Milliner, who is fourth in the nation in pass breakups per game, and his 18 breakups are more than any other player in the country.

Milliner also had two interceptions and 51 tackles in 2012. Milliner is widely expected to forego his senior season in Tuscaloosa for the upcoming NFL Draft in April, and is projected to be the first cornerback taken off the board.

We’ll get to enjoy Milliner’s presence for one more game as he leads the Crimson Tide’s secondary into the BCS Title Game. You’ll hear his name, along with C.J. Mosley’s, called a lot in Miami as the Crimson Tide battles the Fighting Irish.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know. Also, make sure you tune back in tomorrow as we hand out the offensive freshman of the year award.

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