- Alex Scarborough, ESPN Staff Writer
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Damion Square will be a familiar face for the Crimson Tide defensive line in 2012. So will Brandon Ivory and Jesse Williams, albeit possibly in a new form over center at nose guard.
In all, more than 10 defensive linemen will return from last year’s squad, but that doesn’t mean it won’t have a different feel from the national championship group that featured a pair of key seniors in Josh Chapman and Nick Gentry.
“We are very big but very athletic,” Square said of the defensive linemen. “Not saying that the guys before weren’t athletic but these guys -- pretty much all across the board they can play any position up front and get the job done.”
Three of the returning players are coming off redshirt years and will rewind their second try at preseason practice.
Many of the newcomers have given Square, a veteran of three spring practices, a positive first impression. Square has lined up alongside the likes of true freshmen Ryan Anderson and Alphonse Taylor this spring, and has come away impressed with their physical maturity.
“All of those guys are special,” Square said. “I’ve seen some great guys come in after me, considering I’ve been here for awhile. But this group here, these guys, you can’t tell they were just in high school last semester. These guys are some great fellas -- big, massive guys in the weight room. They’re very strong, very quick and can practice at our tempo.”
Square won’t thrown his hat in the ring to replace Chapman and Gentry at nose guard but said that whoever gets the job will be more than capable of handling the middle of the line. Williams is a good bet to start at nose guard and Taylor could get a long look at that position in his first year as well.
“All those guys can do the job really well,” Square said of the battle at nose guard. “They’re all big, massive guys that can move really well.”
Senior linebacker Nico Johnson echoed his teammates sentiments a week ago. For Johnson to succeed, much of that begins and ends with the line’s ability to open holes to the backfield. Considering the candidates at nose guard, Johnson is confident they’ll do the job.
“Jesse is just as good a player as Chapman,” Johnson said. “They’re good enough to do it and know what to do.”
And, to Square, what Alabama does is simple. Asked whether an influx of youth and athleticism might change the makeup of the defensive line, Square said no.
“At Bama we have one identity and that’s to win championships,” Square said. “That’s what we practice for.”
‘All you can be’
Alabama coach Nick Saban wasn’t in quite the cheery mood as he was on March 10 when the Tide opened spring practice.On Monday, the sixth-year head coach said Day 2 of spring drills felt like it should have been the first.
Disappointed with the team's effort, Saban had a message for his players after practice Monday, calling for a renewed sense of determination.
“It’s special to be all that you can be,” Saban said. “You can’t really take anything for granted. You have to learn to be accountable and responsible to give effort and play with toughness.
“Right now we have too many talented guys that need to learn how to do that with more consistency.”
Saban added insult to injury on Monday when the issue of Blake Sims' practice spent in a black no-contact jersey came up. Although Saban said the hip injury sustained by Sims over spring break was minor, he wasn't thrilled for the reason why it happened in the first place.
“We try to get these guys to not play basketball but they all think they can play in the NBA,” Saban said. “They just have to suffer the consequences for that.”
The Alabama Coaching Clinic will have an interesting pair of speakers on Thursday. Lou Holtz and Bill Parcells will headline the group set to participate in the clinic that will include NFL coordinators Bill Musgrave and John Pagano. Alabama alums Mickey Andrews and Bobby Humphrey are also scheduled to speak.
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