Alabama will start the season as the preseason No. 1 team in college football. If the Crimson Tide win out and keep this ranking, they will add the 19th national title to the program’s storied history.
As I recently did with Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska, and Notre Dame, if one were to take the best players and coaches from all of Alabama's teams (based on their level of success in college and/or the NFL) to put together an all-time lineup, the Tide would be one of the greatest teams not just in college football history, but NFL history as well.
Let’s take a look, but as we do, note that I am going on an individual's peak success and how he would fare today, i.e., no 180-pound linemen. With that in mind, let’s dive in.
Head Coach: Bear Bryant (1958-82)
The Tide’s all-time winningest coach won national titles in both the one-platoon (players playing both ways) and two-platoon eras with offenses that ranged from the T-formation to the Wishbone. In addition, eight of his non-championship teams finished in the top five, meaning today they would have been vying for a playoff spot today.
Offensive Coordinator: Steve Sarkisian (2016, '19-20)
Alabama’s offense in 2020 was arguably the best in the program’s history when Sarkisian was serving as its coordinator, winning the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach.
Defensive Coordinator: Nick Saban (2007-present)
A compelling argument can be made that Saban should be the head coach of this all-time team. Either way, Saban is a defensive guru who turned Michigan State, LSU, and Alabama around starting on that side of the football.
QB: Bart Starr (1951-54)
This will be controversial because Starr spent much of his career at Alabama trying to play through a back injury. However, he won five NFL titles with the Green Bay Packers, which is four more than any other Tide quarterback. His career completion rate of 57.4 percent was the best in NFL history when he retired, and he had an NFL-best career postseason passer rating of 104.8 in an era where quarterbacks aren’t given the leeway they are today.
RB: Derrick Henry (2013-15)
Henry averaged six yards a carry and scored 42 touchdowns on the ground while in Tuscaloosa. In 2015, he rushed for 2,219 yards and won the Heisman Trophy and a national title. In the NFL, he has averaged 4.9 yards per rush and ran for 2,027 yards in 2020.
RB: Mark Ingram Jr. (2008-10)
Alabama’s first Heisman winner rushed for a then-Tide record 1,658 yards in 2009 and won a national championship. He has since amassed nearly 10,000 all-purpose yards and made three Pro Bowls in his 11-season NFL career.
WR: Don Hutson (1932-34)
“The Alabama Antelope” played alongside Bear Bryant and earned All-American honors in 1934, during a season where he had six catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns in a 29-13 win over Stanford in the Rose Bowl. His stats with the Green Bay Packers are remarkable today and astounding in the 1930s and '40s. Hutson scored 99 touchdowns and set an NFL record for leading the league in touchdowns eight times on his way to the Hall of Fame and the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
WR: DeVonta Smith (2017-20)
In 2020, Smith became the first Alabama wide receiver to win the Heisman in a season where he amassed 1,856 yards and scored 23 touchdowns. During his first year with the Philadelphia Eagles, he set a franchise rookie record with 916 receiving yards.
WR: Julio Jones (2008-10)
Jones earned All-SEC honors and won a national title at Alabama, but he flourished in the NFL. During his career, he has caught 879 passes for 13,300 yards, and 61 touchdowns, making seven Pro Bowls.
TE: Ozzie Newsome (1974-77)
“The Wizard of Oz” primarily played wide receiver at Alabama and was a consensus All-American in 1977. The Cleveland Browns selected him in the first round and moved him to tight end where he went on to have a Hall of Fame career.
T: Chris Samuels (1996-99)
Samuels was a unanimous All-American in 1999 in a season where he did not allow a single quarterback pressure. He made six Pro Bowls with the Washington Redskins before spinal stenosis forced him to retire in 2010.
G: John Hannah (1970-72)
A two-time All-American at Alabama, Hannah played for 13 seasons with the New England Patriots and is part of the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-time Team.
C: Dwight Stephenson (1977-79)
Stephenson was the starting center on back-to-back national championship teams. When he was the full-time starter for the Miami Dolphins from 1982-87, the team gave up the fewest sacks in the NFL for a record six straight seasons. A knee injury in 1988 cut his career short, but he has since been inducted into the Hall of Fame and also been named to the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
G: Chance Warmack (2009-12)
After winning three national championships in four seasons and earning unanimous All-American honors in 2012, Warmack played six seasons in the NFL and won a Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles.
T: Andre Smith (2006-08)
Smith earned the Outland Trophy in 2008, a season where he gave up just one sack and six quarterback pressures. He has since played 13 seasons in the NFL.
DE: Leroy Cook (1972-75)
A two-time All-American, Cook recorded 27 tackles for a loss, 15 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, and three blocked kicks. A freak knee injury during a postgame celebration after the 1975 Iron Bowl short-circuited what would have been a promising NFL career.
DT: Marty Lyons (1975-78)
Lyons was a consensus All-American in 1978 and was part of the famous “Goal Line Stand” against Penn State in the Sugar Bowl. In the NFL, he was a member of the Jets “New York Sack Exchange” and recorded 43 sacks, two safeties, and eight fumble recoveries.
DT: Quinnen Williams (2016-18)
After being redshirted his freshman year, Williams made 26 tackles for a loss in two seasons and won the Outland Trophy in 2018. He has since recorded 15.5 sacks and forced two fumbles in three seasons with the New York Jets.
DE: John Copeland (1989-92)
In 1992, Copeland and fellow defensive end Eric Curry wreaked havoc on offenses as Alabama sported the No. 1 defense and won the national title. He then started 102 games and recorded 24 sacks with the Cincinnati Bengals.
LB: Derrick Thomas (1986-88)
The late Thomas is Alabama’s all-time leader in career sacks with 52, as well as for a season with 27 and in a single game with five. The Pro Football Hall of Famer recorded 126.5 sacks and made nine Pro Bowls before his tragic death from injuries sustained in a car accident in 2000.
LB: Lee Roy Jordan (1959-62)
Jordan was a key force in Bear Bryant’s first national title with Alabama in 1961 and earned unanimous All-American honors the following year. He played 14 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys where he made five Pro Bowls and was placed in the team’s ring of honor.
LB: Woodrow Lowe (1972-75)
A three-time All-American, Lowe holds the Tide’s record for most tackles in a season with 134. He went on to play 11 seasons with the San Diego Chargers and was named to its 50th Anniversary Team.
LB: Cornelius Bennett (1983-86)
Along with Lowe, Bennett is the only other player to be named to three different All-American teams. He made five Pro Bowls and was a major part of the Buffalo Bills defense that went to four straight Super Bowls.
DB: Antonio Langham (1990-93)
The Tide’s all-time interceptions leader with 19 won a national championship in 1992 and was a consensus All-American in 1993. Langham then played seven seasons in the NFL.
DB: Minkah Fitzpatrick (2015-17)
Fitzpatrick won two national championships and was a two-time consensus All-America at Alabama, where he returned four picks for touchdowns. He has since made two Pro Bowls in his four seasons in the NFL.
DB: Ha Clinton-Dix (2011-13)
Ha'Sean Treshon Clinton-Dix won two national titles and was a consensus All-American in 2013. He has since played for six seasons in the NFL, making the Pro Bowl in 2016.
DB: Marlon Humphrey (2014-16)
Following a redshirt freshman year, Humphrey started two seasons for the Tide, winning a national title in 2015 and earning All-American honors in '16. He has since made the Pro Bowl twice with the Baltimore Ravens.
K: Will Reichard (2019-present)
Yes, he’s still playing for Alabama, but Reichard is currently the program’s all-time leader kicker in field goal accuracy (81.6 percent).
P: J.K. Scott (2014-17)
Scott averaged 45.6 yards a punt at Alabama and is currently averaging 44.5 yards per kick in the NFL.
KR: David Palmer (1991-93)
“The Deuce” was not only a threat as a return specialist, but also as a receiver, running back, and quarterback while in Tuscaloosa. He returned two punts and one kickoff for touchdowns during his seven seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.
PR: Javier Arenas (2006-09)
Arenas averaged 14 yards a return and took seven punts to the house while at Alabama.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports' Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.