TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- He was the defensive star of the BCS National Championship Game last season.
He was also the most productive defensive end on Alabama’s team in 2009.
This coming season, Marcell Dareus will be a lot more. Along with linebacker Dont’a Hightower and safety Mark Barron, the 6-foot-4, 296-pound junior will be one of the centerpieces of the Alabama defense.
“I think this is my year to show everybody what I can do,” Dareus said. “I’m not in anybody’s shadow. I guess you can say this is my time to shine and show what I can do on a consistent basis.”
Dareus, despite starting only four games, led Alabama with 6.5 sacks. He finished with nine tackles for loss and also had the biggest hit of the season.
His tackle of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy knocked the Longhorns’ star out of the title game in the first quarter.
To this day, Dareus has mixed emotions about the play. It was a perfectly clean tackle. He just hated to see McCoy get injured.
Afterward, Dareus wanted to seek McCoy out, but wasn’t able to get to him before he left the field.
“I really didn’t get a chance to speak to him. I didn’t want him to hold anything against me,” said Dareus, who also returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown in the 37-21 win over Texas. “I wasn’t happy that he was hurt, but there was a feeling of relief that there was one big player [out of the game] we wouldn’t have to worry about.
“It was like a big weight had been lifted off our shoulders. But at the same time, I was like, ‘I hope I haven’t hurt this man’s career.’ It’s just part of the game. It happens. It’s football. You get hit, and some people get knocked out and some people come back and play.”
With so many starters gone off last season’s national championship defense, Dareus understands how some people might be expecting the Crimson Tide to drop off on that side of the ball.
But based on what he’s seen this spring, he’s not ready to concede anything.
“I know this defense might not be as big as we were last year, but we will be faster and we will be dominant,” Dareus said. “We’re going to work our butts off to be as good as we can be.”