Musclebound Chapman replaces Cody for ‘Bama

Published 9:15 pm Monday, October 20, 2008

TUSCALOOSA – Opposing offenses won’t have to scale Mount Cody to get through the middle of No. 2 Alabama’s defensive line for a while.

Now, they get “The Incredible Hulk” instead.

With mammoth nose guard Terrence Cody out for at least two games with a knee injury, musclebound Josh Chapman will start for the Crimson Tide Saturday at Tennessee.

What that means for opponents: They will face Alabama’s strongest player instead of the biggest. The 6-foot-5, 365-pound Cody is expected to miss at least the next two games with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.

Coach Nick Saban is hoping Cody will return in time for the Tide’s game at No. 11 LSU on Nov. 8.

The junior college transfer has been a formidable presence manning the middle of the Tide’s defensive line all season, earning the nickname “Mount Cody” and becoming a fan favorite.

“The impact was obvious,” cornerback Javier Arenas said. “Losing him won’t be so obvious, because we’ve got a guy stepping in who’s just as capable, a tad bit smaller. We’d really love to have Cody in there, as any team in the country would. We’ve just got to adapt and play our game.”

Chapman, a 6-1, 305-pound sophomore, has been a regular presence on Alabama’s defense, too. He has typically rotated in for a few snaps every five or six plays.

Cody has 15 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss. Chapman has six tackles, three of them behind the line, but knows he doesn’t quite present the same intimidating sight to opposing linemen.

“I think any opponent would be glad to see me instead of Cody,” he said. “That’s a whole big load.”

Both have been important fixtures in the league’s No. 2 rush defense, which has allowed only one touchdown on the ground in seven games.

“He plays with strength,” coach Nick Saban said of Chapman. “He’s got good power. He plays run blocks very well. He’s a true nose guard for what we want. He’s played all year. It’s not like you haven’t seen him. He’s out there on probably a third of the run down plays in every game.”

Whereas Cody has been notable for his size and impressive agility, Chapman’s strength is what draws attention from his teammates. He bench presses 485 pounds, squats 600 and draws a crowd in the gym whenever it’s time for the Tide strength coaches to measure how much each player can lift.

That’s why Arenas calls him “The Incredible Hulk” in the weight room.

“We don’t have enough space on the bar to put another weight on when he gets on it,” Arenas said. “When we’re maxing out everyone crowds around him. He’s a monster.”

Chapman said he benched 315 pounds as a ninth-grader at Hoover High School, when Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson was a senior at the state powerhouse.

Wilson saw him play whenever he went to see his little brother, Ross, play in Hoover games and said Chapman was already the Tide’s strongest player as an incoming freshman.

“He’s not as big as Cody but I think he’s stronger than him,” Wilson said. “I don’t think we’ll fall off much at all. He lifts more than anybody on our team and an absurd amount of weight. The bar starts bending. He squats more than all my lifts combined.”

Behind Chapman, Saban said defensive end Lorenzo Washington could at times move over to the position he manned last season. Sophomore Nick Gentry is a smaller (254 pounds), quicker player at nose guard who has mostly played special teams and doesn’t have a tackle this season.

Saban indicated he might even consider taking the redshirt off freshman Damion Square.

Chapman, meanwhile, is drawing unfamiliar attention in his role replacing Cody, who even lined up as a lead blocker on a touchdown run against Mississippi.

“I guess I could try to bring the same things he brings,” Chapman said. “He brings a lot of energy out there. Like him being big and funny; he’s a funny guy. I can throw a few little jokes in there for the team.”

He said coaches replayed a scene where Cody jumped on a celebratory pile a couple of times. Chapman isn’t likely to try to match it.

“Not like he did,” he said. “The way he jumped on the pile was like a frog out there. A big frog.”

And when he’s not doing that, Arenas said it’s fun to stand even with the line of scrimmage on the sideline and watch Cody work.

“If you watch from the sideline, you will see two guys on the line get pushed back 3 or 4 yards and there’s really nothing they can do about it,” Arenas said. “All-America, All-Globe, I don’t care what they are. It’s fascinating to watch them get pushed back because they’re huge but then you’ve got this huger guy putting them in the quarterback’s lap.”