Alabama Football Year End Awards: Unsung Hero of the Year


John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

We have spent the last few days handing out end of the year awards to the best and the brightest Alabama Crimson Tide players. We handed out offensive and defensive players of the year; then moved on to offensive and defensive freshman of the year.

Now, we move on to the less heralded Alabama players to pick out the unsung hero of the year; a guy who has had a great 2012 season for the Crimson Tide, but hasn’t received the amount of praise he really deserves.

Last year, this guy, in my opinion, was defensive tackle Nick Gentry. Gentry didn’t get a lot of credit for what he meant to the team last year, but he was spectacular when given the chance to play on the Tide’s defensive line.

So, who was it this year? Maybe Michael Williams, the 6-foot-6 269 pound senior tight end, who is one of the most dominant blocking tight ends in college football and is widely considered to be the best blocking tight end in this coming NFL Draft.

Williams has 21 receptions for 166 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2012, but his real impact is felt as a blocker, especially in the running game, where he helps to seal off defensive ends and open up holes for Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.

You can’t talk about Williams without also giving praise to Kelly Johnson, the walk-on starting H-back, who while not much of a threat as a receiver, has been a very strong lead blocker in the running game. He has 34 yards on 4 receptions this year, but his impact as a blocker cannot be undervalued. Johnson won the starting H-back role in the fall, but he had to take on an even bigger role than originally expected after Jalston Fowler’s season ending injury against Western Kentucky.

What about right guard Anthony Steen, who is consistently forgotten about on the offensive line with Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker, and even Cyrus Kouandjio getting more praise than the Tide’s junior offensive guard.

On the defensive line, senior defensive end Damion Square and sophomore nose tackle Brandon Ivory are constantly overlooked. Square has been rock solid for two years as one of Alabama’s starting ends, and Ivory really stepped up at nose this season to soften the blow of losing both Josh Chapman and Nick Gentry on the interior of the line. Ivory has spelled Jesse Williams this year, and the Tide’s run defense hasn’t missed a beat with him in the game.

Senior linebacker Nico Johnson and junior safety Nick Perry have flown under the radar this season as well. Johnson is one of the best run stopping linebackers in the SEC, and Perry really stepped up, especially early in the season, in the Tide’s defensive backfield. Perry manned the ‘star’ position for the Crimson Tide early in the season as a third safety on the field. Perry has since been jumped on the depth chart by freshman Geno Smith, but you have to give Perry credit for holding down the fort for a while.

For me, it came down to two special teams guys. Senior long snapper Carson Tinker has been outstanding for three seasons now in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide has been fortunate to not have botched snaps on punts or field goals, and Tinker is the reason why. His snaps are almost always perfect. In my opinion, Tinker is the best long snapper in the country.

But, Tinker finishes a close second to senior kicker Jeremy Shelley, who is the only kicker in the country this season who is perfect on field goals and extra points in 2012. Shelley was one of the stars of Alabama’s 21-0 BCS National Championship win over LSU last year, as he hit 5-of-7 field goal attempts to help the Tide to the victory.

Shelley followed up that tremendous start to the calendar year, with a perfect 2012 campaign with the Crimson Tide. Shelley hit all 11 of his field goal attempts and connected on all 63 of his extra points leading up to the BCS Championship Game with Notre Dame.

Shelley doesn’t get much credit because he doesn’t attempt long field goals. He didn’t attempt a single field goal of over 40 yards this season, with his long coming from 38 yards out. But still, Shelley attempted 74 kicks this season, and made every one of them, and nobody else can say that.

His consistency has been impressive, and there isn’t a more accurate kicker in the country. If he had a stronger leg, he would undoubtedly be one of the best kickers in the nation with a bright NFL future ahead of him.

Agree or disagree? Leave a comment and let us know who we forgot about. Also, make sure you vote on the play of the year, and we’ll announce the results tomorrow.

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