Defensive line steps up to fill voids left by key players

Alabama is faced with replacing several key contributors from last year’s national-championship-winning team. But the defensive line seems to be adjusting just fine, junior defensive lineman Jeoffrey Pagan said.

“We lost some really good guys from the [defensive] line, and that just opened up doors for younger players like myself to come in and be able to help out and actually play a role,” Pagan said. “I feel like my role is actually greater than it was. I have an opportunity to do something special.”

Pagan finished the 2012-13 season with 22 total tackles as a reserve for head coach Nick Saban. He played in all 14 games and recorded 1.5 sacks. But he wants to see his sack total increase in 2013 by paying more attention to his pass-rushing technique during practice.

“My pass rushing is an area in which I would like to do better this year,” Pagan said. “This year I’m going to try to do a little bit of both.”

The experience of senior Ed Stinson should help Pagan in his personal critique. Pagan said Stinson’s presence around the younger players has benefited them with their workload increase this spring.

“Ed’s like the old guy on the [defensive] line, and he’s like the father,” he said. “He’s somebody that we can always go to if we need help. He’s just somebody that knows the game.”

Stinson is especially beneficial to linebacker-turned-defensive end Xzavier Dickson, as Stinson went through the same position change in his earlier years at the Capstone.

Pagan said Dickson could line up as a tackle or an end on the defensive front and the Crimson Tide would not suffer.

“He’s battling at both positions,” Pagan said. “He’s really talented on the outside, but then again, he’s really talented on the inside. Xzavier could really line up either way, and wherever he’s at he’s going to make an impact.”

Some other players that have stood out to Pagan thus far are the guys working in at nose guard: Brandon Ivory, Darren Lake and Wilson Love. Pagan said he can’t tell the difference between the three when he has worked with them in practice.

“I’ve taken reps with all three of them, and I would line up with any of them and be confident that they will all three get the job done,” he said.

But Pagan isn’t the only Alabama player to take notice of the defensive line this spring. Junior tight end Harrison Jones said the defensive line will be one of the sparks for the Tide in 2013.

“We’ve got some really talented guys, some guys that have really worked hard on the defensive line, Pagan especially,” Jones said. “I see those guys really stepping up and filling the spots that were left open last year from guys leaving the team.

“That’s something that is going to be a big part for our team this year is the defensive line stepping up, and I’ve thought they’ve done a good job of that so far.”

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