The Saban 250: Alabama Crimson Tide Players 151-175

BamaCentral marks the end of the Nick Saban coaching era with the definitive rankings of his top 250 players with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Jan 8, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide cornerback Levi Wallace (39) celebrates a victory against the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2018 CFP national championship college football game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Jan 8, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide cornerback Levi Wallace (39) celebrates a victory against the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2018 CFP national championship college football game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. / Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — There's a heavy presence of defensive players among those ranked between 151 and 175 in The Saban 250, which wasn't by design. However, it is indicative of how each one had a different path during his career. Robert Lester is a good example of that.

To look back on it now, the one play most fans remember from the safety's first few games in the lineup may have been symbolic.

Penn State was visiting Bryant-Denny Stadium in 2010 and after coming off the bench to contribute in eight games as a redshirt freshman during national championship season Lester was making just his second career start. The Nittany Lions were driving when on second-and-6 at the Alabama 16, they completed a short pass with junior receiver Chaz Powell taking a hard hit from veteran safety Mark Barron, with Lester picking up the loose ball at the 9 and taking off toward the other end zone.

Only it didn’t result in a touchdown. Some 75 yards later – believed to be the longest fumble return in Crimson Tide history -- a Penn State player eventually caught up, grabbed him by the belt and knocked the ball loose at the 16.

"I knew he was coming," Lester said at the time. "I really don't know how he got it out."

Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick tried to scoop up the loose ball and land on it only to have it stripped at the 2 and recovered by wide receiver Brett Brackett. Although the Big Ten officials appeared to initially award Alabama the ball, ruling Kirkpatrick was down before he fumbled, the play was reviewed with the crew instead giving Penn State a first down.

Lester was credited with a turnover created and a turnover lost, and the end result was the Nittany Lions losing 89 yards on the play.

"I would like to think that the first one was a fumble and the second wasn't, but no such luck," Coach Nick Saban said with a laugh. "The good news was that it changed the field position.”

Alabama won the game, of course, and Lester went on to lead the Southeastern Conference in interceptions with eight en route to being named a Walter Camp second-team All-American.

Only it proved to be perfect example of how statistics can lie, because as Lester improved fewer teams dared challenge him and his numbers continually declined.

In 2011, the interceptions slowed to a trickle, two, while his tackles dropped from 52 to 39. Alabama won another national championship and Barron, Kirkpatrick and DeQuan Menzie were subsequently selected in the NFL Draft, but Lester decided to avoid temptation and stay at the Capstone for one final year, so he could take another important step in his development.

“It's like if you're an offensive player everybody wants to score a touchdown, but Robert really does his job well,” Saban said. “He's a leader in the secondary, I've never heard him get frustrated or show any disappointment or displeasure or anything like that in the fact that, last year he had a couple opportunities that he didn't take advantage of, but he's always in the right place and I think that his opportunities will come when he continues to play and be in the right place.

“He's certainly a good leader for us in the secondary and makes a lot of checks and adjustments, a very important part of what we do, and whether he gets interceptions or not he's a lot better player now than he was two years ago when he made all those interceptions.”

Crimson Tide Players 151-175

151. Levi Wallace, CB, 2016-17

• 2017 second-team All-SEC
• Arrived as a walk-on after two years earned a scholarship in 2016. Played in 11 games as a reserve and on special teams
• Didn’t start opener of 2017 season against Florida State, but replaced Trevon Diggs and had two tackles, a pass breakup and his first career interception
• Led the Crimson Tide with 18 passes defended and three interceptions. Was credited with 48 tackles, including 4.5 for loss, and two sacks. [See below]

152. Xzavier Dickson, OLB, 2011-14

• Seventh-round selection in 2015 NFL Draft
• Four-year contributor who played in 39 games and was credited with 91 tackles, including 21.0 for a loss and 14.0 sacks
• During his final season had a career-high 41 tackles, including 12.5 for a loss and nine sacks, and two passes defended

153. Josh Jobe, CB, 2018-21

Two-year starter who amassed 129 tackles over four seasons, including 3.5 for a loss and two tackles, along with three interceptions, 19 passes broken up, and two forced fumbles. Passed up on entering the NFL draft to return for his senior season. Despite suffering an injury in the SEC Championship Game that kept him from playing in the in the College Football Playoff, he had 38 total tackles and two interceptions during his final season.

154. Adrian Hubbard, OLB, 2011-13

The 6-foot-6 linebacker with a long reach was credited with 83 career tackles, including 18.0 for a loss and 10 sacks, four passes defended and three forced fumbles. 

155. Tony Brown, DB, 2104-17

One of the most unique personalities of the Saban-era, the speedster played in 38 games over three years, and was credited with 79 tackles, including 4.5 for a loss and half-sack, to go with three interceptions, seven passes defended and one forced fumble. His only pickoff of his final season happened during his last game, the College Football Playoff national championship.

156. Christopher Allen, OLB, 2017-20

• 2020 second-team All-SEC
• Had 61 career tackles in 34 games, including 19.5 for a loss and 7.5 sacks. Also had four forced fumbles and one recover
• Had a career-high 41 tackles in 2020, with 13 tackles for a loss to lead the SEC, and 6.5 sacks. Suffered a foot injury in the 2021 season opener against Miami that kept him off the field for the rest of the season

157. Brandon Deaderick, 2007-09

• Seventh-round selection in 2010 NFL Draft
• Came back from being shot in a botched robbery right before the start of the 2009 season and played in 14 games. He was credited with 23 tackles, including 4.5 for a loss, and one sack.
• Over three seasons, made 81 total tackles, including 13.0 for a loss and seven sacks.

158. Brad Smelley, TE, 2008-11

• Seventh-round selection in 2012 NFL Draft
• Emerged as a dangerous receiving threat during the stretch run to the 2011 national championship. Had six catches for 86 yards against Auburn, and seven receptions in the title game
• Had 34 catches for 356 yards and four touchdowns as a senior
• Finished career with 54 catches for 559 yards and four touchdowns

159. Jeoffrey Pagan, DE, 2011-13

• Sixth-round selection in 2014 NFL Draft
• During his three seasons was credited with 60 tackles, including 7.5 for a loss and 3.5 sacks, plus one forced fumble
• Before entering the NFL draft a year early had 33 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss and two sacks as a starter

160. Slade Bolden, WR, 2019-21

As a starter in 2021, had 42 receptions for 408 yards and three touchdowns, and ran in a score out of the wildcat.  Added 14 punt returns for 99 yards to go with five kickoff returns for 67 yards. Finished career with 68 catches for 712 receiving yards and eight total TDs

Running back Roydell Williams is on The Saban 250 list of players who made the biggest impact with the Crimson Tide.
Sep 9, 2023; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Roydell Williams (5) is brought down by a pair of Texas defenders at Bryant-Denny Stadium. / Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

161. Roydell Williams, RB, 2020-2023

 Accumulated 1,165 rushing yards on 234 carries, with 11 touchdowns, and also had 21 receptions for 152 yards and two more TDs over four years

162. Robert Lester, S, 2009-12

• 2010, 2012 second-team All-SEC
• Over four seasons made 147 tackles, including 6.5 for a loss and 2.5 sacks, 14 interceptions and seven passes defended
• The career interceptions are tied for fifth on the Alabama all-time list, and his eight pickoffs in 2010 tied for second in a single season.
• Had a career-best 52 tackles in 2010.
• During 2011 national title season had 39 tackles, three pass breakups, a forced fumble, one tackle for loss, and a blocked field goal. Had 42 tackles during his final season with seven passes defended and four picks

163. Anthony Steen, OL, 2010-13

• 2013 second-team All-SEC
• Was a starter at guard on the 2011 and 2012 national championship teams
• His Crimson Tide claim to fame was during the 2012 season, when made nine starts (due to suffering a concussion against Ole Miss), Steen was the only player on the dominating offensive line who didn’t land a penalty or yield a sack.

164. Hale Hentges, TE, 2015-18

• 2018 team co-captain
• 2018 SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year
• Caught four passes for 34 yards with three touchdown receptions as a senior.
• Finished career with 15 receptions for 124 yards and six touchdowns

165. WR Matt Caddell, WR, 2007

Played only one season for Nick Saban. Had the clutch overtime touchdown catch against Arkansas. Caught 40 passes for 475 yards and two touchdowns (finished career with 1,135 receiving yards)

166. Ezekial Knight, OLB, 2007-08

Alabama’s first Jack (hybrid linebacker/end) under Nick Saban, Knight played in all 13 games in 2007, and was sixth on the team with 64 tackles and two interceptions, 11 tackles for loss and three sacks. However, a heart issue derailed his Crimson Tide career.

167. DeMarcco Hellams, DB, 2019-22

• Seventh-round selection in 2023 NFL Draft
• During 54 career games made 261 tackles, including 7.5 for a loss and 2.5 sacks, with 17 passes defended and four interceptions. Also forced a fumbled that he recovered
• During final season led Alabama with 108 tackles, which ranked sixth in the SEC. He also broke up seven passes and had a pickoff.
• Suffered a lower leg injury midway through fall camp that limited his playing time early in 2021, but earned a starting role and tied for the team lead in interceptions with three. Tallied 87 tackles

168. Bobby Greenwood, DE, 2007-08

Two-year starter credited with 87 total tackles, including 16.5 for a loss and 8.5 sacks during Nick Saban’s first two years at Alabama. Also had a forced fumble and fumble recovery

169. Drew Davis, T, 2008-09

Two-year starter at right tackle in 2008-09. Although he was projected to be a late draft selection, Davis opted not to pursue the NFL. He instead attended Alabama School of Law.

170. Geno Matias-Smith, DB, 2012-15

Began his career at cornerback and moved to star, and safety, where he developed into a two-year starter. Was credited with 145 career tackles, including 5.5 for a loss, one interception and a fumble recovery 

The Dec. 14, 2009 cover of Sports Illustrated after Alabama de-throned Florida atop the Southeastern Conference.
Colin Peek Sports Illustrated cover /

171. Colin Peek, TE, 2009

• 2009 second-team All-SEC
• After transferring from Georgia Tech, Peek only got to play one season with the Crimson Tide. He had 26 receptions for 313 yards and three touchdowns
• His signature moment was his 17-yard touchdown catch against Florida in the SEC Championship Game, which ended up on the cover of Sports Illustrated

172. Jaheim Oatis, DL, 2022-23*

Lost 100-plus pounds after arriving at Alabama and weighing 417 at one point. Played both in the interior and at end during his first two seasons with the Crimson Tide, while making 55 tackles, including three for a loss and 1.5 sacks. He’s also knocked down four passes.

173. Isaiah Bond, WR, 2023

            Led the 2023 team with 48 receptions, and was second in receiving yards with 668, to go with four touchdowns. Over two seasons had 65 catches for 888 yards and five TDs. Had the touchdown catch from Jalen Milroe on fourth-and-goal from the 31 to shock Auburn

174. Lester Cotton Sr., 2015-18

Moved to left guard as a senior (10 starts) after starting 18 games at right guard in his first three seasons. Finished his career with 28 starts.  

175. Thomas Fletcher, LS, 2017-20

• Sixth-round pick in 2021 NFL Draft
• Won the 2020 Patrick Mannelly Award as college football's top long snapper in 2020
• Finished perfect on all snapping duties during all four seasons, and started all 55 games
• Was credited with a pair of tackles and a fumble recovery


Looking back: From walk-on to reliable corner, Levi Wallace

The radio-show caller stumped the host Monday morning, even though the University of Alabama campus was in the heart of the station’s listening area.

“Who is Levi Wallace?” he asked. “Where did he come from?”

Florida State fans probably had the same reaction duiring the 2017 season opener in Atlanta, especially after he came off the bench to help settle down the Crimson Tide defense during the 24-7 victory. The senior’s third-quarter interception was when many of them knew for sure how the highly-touted No. 1 vs. No. 3 showdown at Mercedes-Benz Stadium would turn out.

“I don’t remember him going through recruiting or anything,” the radio caller continued.

That’s because he didn’t. Wallace was a terrific high school athlete on the other side of the country, but never had any Division I offers. He didn’t plan to play college football, just be a college student.

He’s on the Crimson Tide roster because of his father, Walter, who hailed from Tuscaloosa and was a big Crimson Tide fan.

The son walked on to the team in January of his freshman year in 2014.

Four months later, on the morning of the Crimson Tide spring celebration known as A-Day, Levi found out his father had died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was a 58.

Levi still played, and has been playing for him ever since.

“I think about him all the time right before I go out onto the field. I look up and thank him for the opportunity, for believing in me,” Levi said.

“He’s always on my mind.”

From Tucson to Tuscaloosa

Walter Lee Wallace Jr. was married for 24 years and spent 21 in the Air Force. He also started and developed numerous businesses in Tucson, Ariz., including Three Points Childcare and Preschool, and coached the Arizona Titans Track Club.

He was close to his sons, Levi and Lawrence, and used to bring them to his hometown.

“His dad was just a great guy,” Tucson High Magnet School football coach Justin Argraves said. “He was always around, supporting the program, supporting Levi and Lawrence.”

Levi was a two-way standout who never left the field for the Badgers, and that’s not an exaggeration. He started at defensive back, going from corner to safety, played wide receiver on offense and was also the return man on special teams.

“Tremendous kid,” the coach added. “When I met first him he was like 6-foot, lucky to weigh 150 pounds. Just a respectful young man. Did everything you asked.”

Because of his size, Wallace didn’t get a sniff from any Division I programs and just some looks from smaller colleges. You can’t find his original profile on any recruiting database, only as a college player who was added in later on.

The plan all along was for both brothers to attend Alabama, taking advantage of a GI Bill benefit for tuition. Even when Argraves took over his program in 2011, Levi told him he would be attending Alabama, where he hoped to walk on, and younger brother Lawrence aimed to join the track team.

But the father was diagnosed with ALS right before Levi left for Tuscaloosa in the fall of 2013.

“I had a lot going on in my life, so I was really ready to let football go,” he said. “My dad just kind of convinced me, ‘Just see how good you are.’ I wanted to see how it is going up against some of the best athletes, some of the best receivers that come to the University of Alabama. I just wanted to see how good I was.

“He just said he believed in me, he always believed in me and my abilities. He said, ‘You’re a great football player, so you might as well give it a shot and see where things go.”’

It took two years of working, learning and developing, of coming back every day to measure up against those the university had already invested in, with no guarantees for tomorrow. Along the way, a former high school teammate was killed back in Arizona, adding to the grief he already felt for his father.

“It was real hard on Levi,” Argraves said.

But during fall camp last year Wallace was [1]awarded a scholarship, along with his good friend, linebacker Jamey Mosley.

He subsequently saw his first game acton in the season opener against Southern California, making his first collegiate tackle and breaking up a pass as the Crimson Tide crushed the Trojans at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, 52-6.

Wallace played 11 games, became a special-teams staple and stepped in when cornerback Marlon Humphrey had to leave the Iron Bowl with a leg injury. He saw time in the SEC Championship Game, the Peach Bowl semifinal and the National Championship Game.

“He’s one of the best technicians on the Alabama defense,” defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick said at the time. “That’s why he’s out there.”

A regular part of the depth chart

Wallace came into the 2017 season with 11 career tackles, two passes broken up and a quarterback hurry, but had been in the mix at left cornerback since the early parts of fall camp, when Nick Saban called him, “one of the guys that we’re looking to create a role for.” He soon started splitting reps with converted wide receiver Trevon Diggs with the first-team defense.

Diggs started and played the first two series against FSU, when the Seminoles had drives of eight and 11 plays, while tallying 127 yards and seven points. On one play in front of the Alabama bench, Diggs got shoved back by a wide receiver and landed on his rear.

Wallace was inserted for the subsequent possession. Florida State managed just 123 total yards the rest of the game.

He was credited with two tackles, but the play that made everyone ask, “Who’s No. 39?” was on the second snap following running back Damien Harris’ 11-yard touchdown run. Wallace made the correct read on a Deondre Francois attempt to Auden Tate and snared his first career interception.

“He understands the system, understands and can make the adaptations,” Saban said. “I think he was a little more comfortable in the game, being a big game, first game, all that. I think Trevon was a little nervous, a little anxious, made a couple of mistakes early. But I think it’s important that both of those guys can play well for us.”

But a walk-on? On college football's most imposting defense over the past decade?

You better believe it.

“Ever since I came in, I couldn’t believe he was a walk-on,” senior linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton said about Wallace. “He’s one of those under-the-radar guys and everybody inside the program knows how good he is. A guy who comes ready to work every day. I’m just glad he’s on our team.”

So was his dad, obviously, plus Wallace already has his business degree.

“I hope I made him proud,” the Crimson Tide starting cornerback said.

Check out: The Saban 250: Alabama Crimson Tide Players 176-200

Next up: Alabama Crimson Tide players 141-150


Published
Christopher Walsh

CHRISTOPHER WALSH

Christopher Walsh is the founder and publisher of BamaCentral, which first published in 2018. He's covered the Crimson Tide since 2004, and is the author of 26 books including Decade of Dominance, 100 Things Crimson Tide Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die, Nick Saban vs. College Football, and Bama Dynasty: The Crimson Tide's Road to College Football Immortality. He's an eight-time honoree of Football Writers Association of America awards and three-time winner of the Herby Kirby Memorial Award, the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s highest writing honor for story of the year. In 2022, he was named one of the 50 Legends of the ASWA. Previous beats include the Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, along with Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks. Originally from Minnesota and a graduate of the University of New Hampshire, he currently resides in Tuscaloosa.