'Bama's mountain of a nosetackle: 365-pound Terrence Cody
It's going to happen at some point this season. Some offensive coordinator will forget that No. 62 is on the other side of the line of scrimmage and call a middle screen to a running back. The center will drop into a pass-blocking stance, but neither of the guards will fall in along side him for support.
Terrence Cody will know something is amiss. No one tries to block the Alabama nosetackle one-on-one. It must be a trick. So when the center lets the 6-foot-5, 365-pound Cody rumble by, a voice in Cody's head will scream, "Screen!" That's when it will happen. The back will catch the ball just as Cody arrives. The scene will play out just like the one on the first day in pads during spring practice in 2005 at Riverdale High in Fort Myers, Fla.
Scott Jones, Riverdale's coach at the time, wanted to know if Cody, a senior returning to football for the first time since his freshman year, could tackle. So Jones sent a running back at Cody. Later, the back would wonder how a house managed to fall on him during football practice. "When Terrence tackled him, all you could see was feet," Jones says. "At the time, he weighed about 410. The poor little running back was only 175."
So pay attention, SEC playcallers. If you don't want your backs to suffer the same fate as the Wicked Witch of the East, do not, under any circumstances, call a middle screen with Cody on the field. For that matter, don't call any dives, blasts, sneaks or inside traps, either. In fact, it's probably best if you just forget running up the middle entirely.
That may be the only sensible course of action against Cody, who, despite being lightly recruited out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Perkinston, Miss., has helped change his team's fortunes more than any other newcomer in the nation this season. On Saturday, No. 3 Georgia will try to scale Mount Cody when the Bulldogs face the No. 8 Crimson Tide between the hedges in Athens. If Alabama's first four games are any indication, the Bulldogs might be better off running round the mountain.
Cody opened his Alabama career by helping the Tide hold Clemson and stud running backs James Davis and C.J. Spiller to zero rushing yards in a nationally televised whipping. Last week, Cody annihilated Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs -- the 2007 Rimington Trophy winner -- in a 49-14 Alabama win. Cody's signature play? On fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line late in the first half, Cody blasted past Luigs and left guard Wade Grayson to grab tailback Michael Smith before he could reach the end zone. Cody sprinted to the sideline for a celebratory flying belly bump from Bama offensive tackle Andre Smith. "That," Alabama play-by-play man Eli Gold said, "registered on some Richter scale out in Colorado."
So how is it that Alabama found itself as the only contestant in the race to sign a virtually unblockable defensive lineman? Steve Campbell, the coach at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, still wonders. "FSU looked at him and said no," Campbell said. "Florida had looked and said no. Miami basically was on him and said no. It was amazing. Mississippi State said no. Ole Miss, no. Auburn, no. They all looked at him."
Cody's weight hovered near 400 during his time in Perkinston, and some coaches don't believe a player that heavy has the stamina or the athletic ability to make an impact at the college level. "A lot of people are just wary of guys that big," Campbell said. "You know when people say that if things seem too good to be true that they usually are. A big guy like that who's that athletic, you just don't believe what you're seeing."
Fortunately for Cody, neither Campbell nor Jones had that attitude. Cody received no recruiting interest while at Riverdale because he played only his freshman and senior seasons. Jones said Cody's father died when Cody was 12, and Cody had to spend afternoons during his sophomore and junior seasons babysitting his younger brother. Finally, before his senior season, Cody approached Jones about playing football again.
Of course, after the tailback-squashing incident at spring practice, Jones had to institute The Terrence Rules. Cody wasn't allowed to tackle opponents at practice. He could only wrap them up. One day, Cody met a 230-pound fullback in the A gap. Cody picked up the kid, slung him over his shoulder and kept charging through the backfield.
"Is that what you want, Coach?" Cody asked Jones.
"Yep," Jones said. "That'll do."