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The Saban Top 100: No. 31-35

The Saban Top 100: No. 31-35

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The Saban Top 100: No. 31-35

BamaCentral is ranking the top 100 players of the Nick Saban era at Alabama over the course of the 2020 football season

31] Dee Milliner, CB

  • 2012 Unanimous All-American
  • 2012 All-SEC
  • Ninth-overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft
  • Was credited with 54 tackles and 22 pass breakups in 2012
  • Per ESPN, Alabama's opponents completed only 49 percent of their passes outside the hashmarks, with four TDs and 11 interceptions

If anyone on Alabama football team began the 2012 season with a bang, it was cornerback Dee Milliner.

Shortly after telling reporters that he wanted to be challenged, “We want them to throw it up a lot so we can make plays back there,” Milliner got his wish in the Cowboys Classic in Arlington, Texas, and responded in a big way.

With Michigan repeatedly testing him, and mostly getting nowhere, Milliner was credited with five tackles, four breakups and an interception to help lead the Crimson Tide to a dominating 41-14 victory.

Not too many other teams dared follow suit.

A Q&A with Milliner:

Q: What do you want to be known for as an Alabama football player?

“I want to be known as one of the best DBs at the University of Alabama. I want them to know that I compete every day and I give my all.”

Q: What reputation did you think you had with your opponents?

“Hard-nosed, relentless, competitive guy like most of the guys on defense are known.”

Q: You faced quarterback A.J. McCarron every day in practice. How did he change over his Crimson Tide career?

“A.J. is more different in being a role player and knowing where everyone should be and just lining them up, and knowing the cracks and holes in the defense. It seems he can just look up and see where the hole is going to be and as soon as he says ‘Hut’ he’s throwing the ball right there.”

Q: Did his ability to exploit the defense frustrate you?

“I like it in the sense he is bringing us up. And if he can do it to us, I’m pretty sure he can do it to other teams.”

Q: Did you ever try and tackle fullback Jalston Fowler?

“Ooooh, yeah. It’s like tackling a moving train. You tense up because you know that contact is coming and to be ready for it.”

32] D.J. Fluker, T

  • 2012 All-American
  • 2012 All-SEC
  • 11th-overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft
  • Graded out at 98.6 percent on blocking assignments his final season
  • Started 36 games for the Crimson Tide

Five things to know about D.J. Fluker:

- Fluker was born and raised in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, but his family was forced to flee following Hurricane Katrina. The five of them, including D.J, his mother, two sisters and brother, lived for a while in a Ford Escort. He was 14 at the time and weighed close to 400 pounds.

- One of the more legendary stories about Fluker occurred when he was attending McGill-Toolen High in Mobile, and the students were raising money to help a family in need. Thinking it was probably for a family that needed it more than him, Fluker donated a $1. The drive was for his family.

- Fluker was the last of three consecutive Alabama players to be selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Fluker went No. 11 overall after cornerback Dee Milliner to the Jets at No. 9 and linemate Chance Warmack to the Titans at No. 10.

- One of Fluker’s first moves as an NFL player was to buy his mom a home in Mobile. He also paid for his brother Leon’s college tuition.

- Fluker used to end each of his press sessions at Alabama by saying thank you and shaking every reporter’s hand before leaving.

33] Marlon Humphrey, CB

  • 2016 All-American
  • 16th-overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft
  • Started all 29 games that he played in during his Crimson Tide career.
  • Kicked off his final season with a pick-six against Southern California. Finished the season with two interceptions, one forced fumble and five pass breakups to go with his 36 tackles, including three for loss.

Five things to know about Marlon Humphrey:

- Humphrey comes from an extremely athletic family. His father Bobby was an All-American running back for the Crimson Tide in 1986-87, and mother Barbara May Humphrey still holds the UAB record in the outdoor 400 meters (53.30 seconds). She was elected to the University of Alabama Board of Trustees in 2014.

- Not surprisingly, Humphrey excelled at track in addition to football. He won seven Alabama state championship event titles across the indoor and outdoor track seasons in 2013, and the 110-meter hurdles (13.67) and the 400-meter hurdles (50.75) at the 2013 World Youth Track & Field Trials.

- After redshirting his first year at Alabama, he earned the starting cornerback position opposite Cyrus Jones in 2015. He notched 45 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and eight pass breakups in his 15 starts.

- Humphrey had Alabama’s first of 11 defensive touchdown in 2016, a pick-six against Southern California that included an 18-yard return.

- He was drafted by Crimson Tide legend Ozzie Newsome, the general manager of the Ravens. Baltimore had tried to trade up to get him, but Humphrey was still available at No. 16 after an unexpected three wide receivers were among the first nine selections.

34] Rashad Johnson, S

  • 2008 All-American
  • 2007-08 All-SEC
  • Third-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft
  • Twice named team captain
  • Was originally a walk-on running back
  • As a junior led the defense with 81 tackles and six interceptions
  • Was credited with 89 tackles and five interceptions as a senior

Five things to know about Rashad Johnson:

- Out of Sulligent High School in Alabama, Johnson didn’t have a single Division I scholarship offer. He walked on to the Crimson Tide under Mike Shula in 2004.

- Johnson’s initial position for Alabama was running back. He moved to safety in 2005 and was awarded a full scholarship in 2006.

- After Nick Saban took over in 2007, Johnson won a starting job and ended up leading team with 81 tackles. His six interceptions tied for the most in the SEC and 10th nationally.

- The game he’s best known for was at LSU in 2008, where he had three interceptions, tying the Alabama single-game record. He returned one for a touchdown, and the last was in overtime.

Read More

- Played eight years in the NFL, seven with the team that drafted him, the Arizona Cardinals. Is currently the sideline reporter for Crimson Tide radio broadcasts.

35] A'Shawn Robinson, DT

  • 2015 Consensus All-American
  • 2015 All-SEC
  • Second-round pick in 2016 NFL Draft
  • Led Alabama in sacks as a freshman with 5.5
  • Over three years had 133 tackles, including 22 for a loss
  • Blocked a kick during each season, including an extra-point attempt by leaping over the long snapper

Without hesitation, senior center Ryan Kelly called it the best defensive line in the nation. Sophomore left tackle Cam Robinson used words like “amazing” and “unbelievable” to describe the group and individual players he went up against every day in practice.

The opposition was even more complimentary.

"They are as talented as I have ever seen,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said about Alabama’s defensive line. “They are as deep and talented as you can imagine. They have had some really good defensive squads and this is as talented as I have ever seen."

Any way they were described, the Crimson Tide defensive linemen were a undoubtedly special group in 2015; possibly the best Nick Saban’s coached outside of the Miami Dolphins.

“We’re excited about this unit,” defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said at the time, and with good reason about the group headed by A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed and Jonathan Allen, and went about 10 deep.

That’s not 10 deep of players who could possibly play or have a lot of potential, but 10 deep of players just about every program in the nation would have wanted. They gave Alabama a huge edge in that they can essentially attack in waves and keep going after opponent.

“It makes each and every person ready to get back out there, as well as you coming off and he’s about to go in there do the same thing except he’s fresh,” Reed said about the Crimson Tide’s rotation. “So it’s like ‘Oh yeah that tackle, that guard about to catch a fresh one.’ Same thing.”

Wisconsin was the first team to learn it during season opener at A&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The program that prided itself on having its top running back exceed 1,600 rushing yards in each of the four previous seasons was limited to just 40 rushing yards, 25 of which were on a trick play by a wide receiver.

The longest carry by a running back was just 5 yards as there just weren’t any open lanes. Alabama applied some serious pressure in the passing game as well as quarterback Joel Stave was sacked three times and took numerous hard hits, and had four passes batted down – three by reserve junior Dalvin Tomlinson.

“We kind of dominated the line of scrimmage,” Saban said afterward.

“We wanted to come out here and make a statement and I feel like we did a great job maintaining our standards and setting a tone for who we are,” said Allen, who then added that he difference was “aggression.”

“It’s the main thing coach has been preaching to us in the offseason. We have to come out and be the aggressor, pound their line of scrimmage, take the battle to them. I feel like as a front we did a great job of that tonight.”

Although Allen would go on to win a host of awards, including the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Lombardi Award, Chuck Bednarik Award, and be the No. 17 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, he technically didn’t start the game.

That’s how good the line was, led by A’Shawn Robinson.

“We don’t really compare ourselves, we just push ourselves no matter what,” Robinson said. “It’s just a competition no matter what we’re doing. If we’re walking we’re just trying to compete and see who gets there first. It’s really just a competition every day to get each other better. Because it’s all about getting each other better, not about comparing yourself to one person.”

Consequently, the players weren’t just “hungry” on the field, but “Really hungry,” Robinson said. “We’re starving.”

While Alabama had a number of talented and successful players on the 2015 team, including running back Derrick Henry, center Ryan Kelly and tight end O.J. Howard, the defensive line may have been the biggest key to the team’s overall success. It could nullify nearly anything thrown at it, even by the Alabama offense during practices.

“I always told myself never to downplay anyone we play, but I tell myself that I play against the best competition in practice every day,” Cam Robinson said.

So which player in particular did the left tackle hate facing the most?

“All of them,” he said.


The Saban Top 100 will be revealed over the course of the 2020 football season. The series thus far:

Introduction

36-40: Rashaan Evans, Dre Kirkpatrick, Marcell Dareus, Eddie Jackson, O.J. Howard

41-45: Courtney Upshaw, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Henry Ruggs III, Jarran Reed, Xavier McKinney

46-50: Dalvin Tomlinson, Antoine Caldwell, Kareem Jackson, Cyrus Kouandjio, Trevon Diggs

51-55: Mike Johnson, T.J. Yeldon, Ronnie Harrison, Damien Harris, JK Scott

56-60: Ross Pierschbacher, Eddie Lacy, Bradley Bozeman, Ryan Anderson, Glen Coffee

61-65: Greg McElroy, Josh Jacobs, Anfernee Jennings, James Carpenter, Kenyan Drake

66-70: Terrell Lewis, Blake Sims, Christian Miller, Irv Smith Jr,, Tim Williams

71-75: Mack Wilson, ArDarius Stewart, Deionte Thompson, Raekwon Davis, Jalston Fowler

76-80: Josh Chapman, Cyrus Jones, Kevin Norwood, Isaiah Buggs, Jake Coker

81-85: Bo Scarbrough, Anthony Averett, Leigh Tiffin, Ed Stinson, DeQuan Menzie

86-90: Jesse Williams, Shaun Dion Hamilton, William Vlachos, Da'Shawn Hand, Arie Kouandjio

91-95: Nico Johnson, Wallace Gilberry, DJ Hall, Vinnie Sunseri, Quinton Dial

96-100: Trey DePriest, Damion Square, Christion Jones, John Parker Wilson, Simeon Castille 

31] Dee Milliner, CB

  • 2012 Unanimous All-American
  • 2012 All-SEC
  • Ninth-overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft
  • Was credited with 54 tackles and 22 pass breakups in 2012
  • Per ESPN, Alabama's opponents completed only 49 percent of their passes outside the hashmarks, with four TDs and 11 interceptions
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