Crimson Tide will have to replace talent, leadership
by Marq Burnett
mburnett@annistonstar.com
Jan 07, 2014 | 1947 views |  0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama will have to replace linebacker C.J. Mosley next season. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Alabama will have to replace linebacker C.J. Mosley next season. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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TUSCALOOSA — With every passing season, talent and leadership move on and teams are forced to reload or rebuild.

For this Alabama group, core leaders with championship experience have finished their careers with the Crimson Tide.

Here are six players that will be tough for Alabama to replace next season.

1. C.J. Mosley — Mosley will be the toughest player to replace. He was an every down linebacker, a tackling machine and the unquestioned leader of the defense. He finished with 108 total tackles and nine tackles for loss on the year which earned him the Butkus Award.

For his career, the two-time All-American racked up 319 total tackles, which placed him third on the Alabama career list.

But his biggest assets were his ability to play in space and also put the entire defense in position. The defensive coaching staff had complete confidence in Mosley and allowed him to make every onfield adjustment. Having linebacker Trey DePriest back will soften the blow a tad, but the loss of Mosley will be felt on and off the field.

2. AJ McCarron — Alabama will likely have more talent at the quarterback position in the future, but the Crimson Tide may never see a winner like AJ McCarron.

In his three years, McCarron led the Tide to a 36-4 record with two BCS National Championships and an SEC Championship.

McCarron took home some individual honors this season. He won the Maxwell Award while being named to a few All-American teams. He also finished in second place for the Heisman Trophy.

McCarron’s 387 passing yards in his final game helped him finish with 3,063 passing yards on the season, surpassing the previous single-season record held by Greg McElroy (2,987 in 2010).

McCarron was the face of the program and a team leader. The next signal caller will have big shoes to fill.

3. Anthony Steen — Steen was one of the most quiet three-year starters you’ll ever see. He led by example and always did his job the right way. He was the one constant for the Tide’s offensive line in 2013 and not having him in the Sugar Bowl due to a shoulder injury disrupted the unit’s chemistry.

Steen was the big brother of the offensive line and with him gone, others will have to emerge as leaders.

4. Kevin Norwood — If the Tide ever needed a big first down catch, Norwood was the go-to guy. Norwood made a living moving the chains. He had a knack for finding the first-down marker, getting separation from his defender and making catches while falling out of bounds.

Norwood was second on the team with 568 receiving yards and had a team-high seven touchdown receptions. He battled through injuries and never seemed to complain about his role. He was also great with the media during his final year.

5. Ed Stinson — Stinson is the Tide’s only defensive player to start every game in the past two seasons. Stinson didn’t have the statistical season he may have hoped for, but his consistency was unmatched.

He finished with 42 total tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Stinson was the leader of the defensive line and that void will have to be replaced moving forward.

6. Deion Belue — Belue was a true warrior throughout the 2013 season. He battled nagging injuries all year and at times, Belue could barely walk around. His injuries severely limited his practice time, but he found a way to fight through the pain to play in games.

Belue was the team’s only veteran cornerback and the Tide never developed a consistent No. 2 corner. Belue won’t be remembered as one of the best during Saban’s tenure, but he should definitely go down as one of the toughest players.
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