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BCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Forget the statistics, Terrence Cody is a big deal for Alabama

Nose guard doesn't get a lot of tackles or sacks, but his presence on the Crimson Tide defensive line is invaluable.

January 04, 2010|Chris Dufresne

For someone as Winnebago-wide and fearsome and scary as Alabama nose guard Terrence Cody, his most impressive numbers are height (6 feet 5) and weight (365 pounds, according to the team's website) over tackles (25) and sacks (zero).

Cody is actually down from 410 pounds. During a high school game in Fort Myers, Fla., he once landed on tailback Noel Devine, now a star at West Virginia, prompting Devine to vomit.

Cody can tell you funny big-man stories, such as trying to shimmy into an airplane lavatory.

"It was terrible," Cody said Sunday as Alabama began preparations for Thursday's Bowl Championship Series title game against Texas at the Rose Bowl.

Prying himself into the lavatory was hard enough.

"Once I got in there it was like, 'This is it?' " he said.

Cody joked that it's nice being big because he can help his coach, Nick Saban, who is not big, on and off the bus.

You wonder, though, how a guy so visible can be so invisible on the stat sheet.

Cody made first-team All-American this year for a defense that gave up 11 points per game. Yet, in two seasons in Tuscaloosa, Cody has 48 tackles and half a sack.

He was Alabama's 12th-leading tackler this year.

Comparisons with Nebraska's man-child nose tackle Ndamukong Suh are understandable, but not flattering.

Suh had 82 tackles this year with 12 sacks, and was a one-man wrecking crew against Texas in the Big 12 Conference title game.

But, once again, statistics lie.

Other than Suh, there might not be another player in college football who disrupts a game plan the way Cody does.

"You talk to other coaches after you play them," Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said. "Talk to other SEC teams, they just can't get movement. If you can move people, you create space. And there is no space created when Cody is in there."

Cody is a wall-to-wall space occupier. It takes two, sometimes three, offensive linemen to keep him from pushing the pile into the backfield.

This helped Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain make 101 tackles this season and win the Butkus Award. It allowed linebacker Cory Reamer to make 48 tackles.

"If you watch film or you see statistics, he doesn't have a lot of tackles," McClain said. "But he does so much more for this defense. He holds up offensive linemen so that I can run around."

In one game this season, a 12-10 victory over Tennessee in Tuscaloosa, Cody did more than that.

He basically saved Alabama's bacon by blocking two field-goal tries, the last a 44-yard attempt at game's end that allowed Alabama to make it to the national title game.

Cody pointed Sunday to the two spots on his beefy left arm where those Tennessee kicks went to die.

The first boot left a red mark under his armpit, with the second hitting about midway between his wrist and elbow.

"Just stuck my arm up and closed my eyes," Cody said of the second game saver.

Cody says he doesn't mind playing the role of Alabama's one-man Maginot Line.

He also doesn't mind co-opting McClain's statistics.

"If you take his tackles and add them with mine, that's pretty much what my stats would be," he said.

Trust us: Texas isn't wondering why Cody doesn't have more tackles and sacks and neither is the NFL, which will make him a millionaire next spring.

Given where he has been, Cody is only too happy to be a giant part of all this. He came from a tough background in Fort Myers and nearly didn't make it through high school, sitting out football his sophomore and junior years because of grades.

Cody built his bridge to somewhere through Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, where he continued to dominate as his waistline expanded.

Upon arrival in Alabama, Cody became intimately involved with Crimson Tide strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran, who made mornings a healthy hell.

"He was a pain in the butt most of the time," Cody said of Cochran, "waking me up at 6 in the morning, coming up there for like 30 minutes of cardio, then I have to turn around and go to class, then be right back up there for workouts, and conditioning after workouts."

Cody also worked on his consumption habits. It wasn't that he was eating too much.

"I was eating at the wrong time," said Cody, which meant nothing for breakfast and everything for dinner.

Cody claims he's 354 pounds on the number this week, ready to lay it all on the line.

"He is what he is," Texas center Chris Hall said of Cody.

And that would be "big," which is why his nickname is "Mt. Cody."

Let's see if Texas can move him.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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