The University of Alabama's BCS National Championship squad will be well represented in the 2012 Senior Bowl. Linebacker Courtney Upshaw, defensive back DeQuan Menzie and offensive lineman William Vlachos have all officially accepted invitations to the senior showcase event, it was announced today. Safety Mark Barron and wide receiver Marquis Maze also accepted invitations but various injuries may prevent them from participating in the event. Defensive tackle Josh Chapman was also invited and accepted but will undergo knee surgery next week and will not be able to participate. The 63rd Senior Bowl is set for Saturday, January 28th at 3 pm (CT) in Mobile's Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The game and all practices will be televised by NFL Network.
"All of these players had outstanding senior seasons and each played a key role in helping Alabama claim another BCS National Championship," Senior Bowl President and CEO Steve Hale said. "Unfortunately injuries are a part of the game and are to be expected when you play a 13-game schedule in the toughest conference in the nation. We're still hopeful that Mark and Marquis will be able to participate in this year's game but will fully support their decision to treat their respective injuries and get healthy as they prepare for the NFL draft, should they choose to do so."
Upshaw added to his several postseason honors Monday night by being named the Defensive Player of the Game in Alabama's 21-0 shutout of LSU in the BCS National Championship. He tied for the team lead with seven tackles and notched a sack while helping hold the Tigers to just five first downs and 92 yards of total offense. He was a first-team All-America honoree by Sporting News and the FWAA and second-team selection by the Associated Press and Walter Camp in 2011.
"I grew up watching the Senior Bowl and to earn an invite is a dream come true," Upshaw said. "I look forward to competing with the top seniors in the nation and showcasing my skills in front of the top decision makers in the NFL."
The Eufaula, Ala., native was also a first-team All-SEC selection by both the league's coaches and AP. Upshaw led the Tide with 18 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks this year—marks that ranked second and tied for fourth respectively in the SEC. He was third on the Crimson Tide in total tackles with 52 and was a finalist for the Butkus and Lombardi Awards this season.
For his career, Upshaw recorded 141 total tackles, including 36.5 tackles for loss, 17.5 sacks, 18 quarterback hurries and one interception in 24 starts. He finished his career with at least one sack in six of his final eight games.
Menzie was named a first team All-America by the AFCA after totaling 41 total tackles, including four tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 11 pass breakups and an interception this season. His interception return for a touchdown served as a huge momentum changer in the Tide's win over Arkansas, giving Alabama a 17-7 lead at the time. Menzie was a member of a defensive secondary that ranked number one in the nation this season in pass defense, surrendering just 111.5 yards per game.
The Columbus, Ga., native has 19 career starts in two years for the Tide and leaves Alabama with 74 total tackles, including nine tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, 15 pass breakups and one interception.
Vlachos, a consensus first-team All-SEC selection (AP & Coaches) at center, was a key cog in the offensive line's wheel this season, helping pave the way for Heisman Trophy finalist Trent Richardson to gain more than 1,600 rushing yards and score 24 total touchdowns. A second-team Walter Camp All-American in 2011, Vlachos was a part of an offensive unit that ranked first in the SEC in rushing offense (214.5 ypg) and second in total offense (429.6 ypg).
He was a finalist for the Rimington Trophy, given annually to the nation's best center, and closed out his career with 40 consecutive starts. The Mountain Brook, Ala., native blocked for 27 100-yard rushers in his career.
If he's able to participate, the 2012 Senior Bowl will be a homecoming for Mobile native Mark Barron. Barron was a unanimous first-team All-America (AP, FWAA, AFCA, Sporting News, Walter Camp) selection this season and landed on both first-team All-SEC squads (Coaches & AP). The hard-hitting safety was second on the team in tackles with 68, including five tackles for a loss, two interceptions, five pass breakups and a fumble recovery. He was also a finalist for the Jim Thorpe and Bronko Nagurski Awards.
For his career, Barron posted 237 tackles, including 13 tackles for loss and five sacks. He ranks eighth on Alabama's all-time list with 12 interceptions and totaled 22 pass breakups in 39 career starts.
Maze, a native of Birmingham, Ala., was a second-team All-SEC selection by the league's coaches in 2011. He led the Crimson Tide and ranked third in the SEC with 56 receptions on the year and had 627 receiving yards and caught one touchdown. A threat in the return game too, Maze ranked third in the league and 9th nationally in punt returns with 436 yards, returning one for a score against Arkansas. He had a 49-yard punt return in the BCS National Championship game that led to the Tide's first points before leaving with a hamstring injury. His 1,399 all-purpose yards this season was fourth-best in the SEC.
Maze leaves Alabama with 136 career receptions for 1,844 yards and eight touchdowns. The four-year starter also totaled 711 punt return yards and 550 kick return yards. He had two career 100-yard receiving games and nine total touchdowns.