TUSCALOOSA -- Rubbing his bloodshot eyes, Terrence Cody didn't have to say much about his energy level early Thursday afternoon.

The hulking Alabama noseguard had just completed the first official practice of the season, and he was visibly gassed after spending about two hours in the soupy early-August air.

The once-oversized junior college player said he was feeling much better than he did following practices last season -- his first under coach Nick Saban.

"It's an adjustment because I'm not as heavy," he said. "But I feel a lot better. My knees feel a lot better and my body feels a lot better than I did last year."

Since arriving in Tuscaloosa, Cody's weight has been the subject of much attention from coaches and the media -- more from the former than the latter, he said with a laugh.

The roster lists Cody at 6-foot-5, 354 pounds, and he said he's right at that weight after playing last season in the 367-pound-range.

By the time the Crimson Tide play Virginia Tech on Sept. 5 in the Georgia Dome, Cody plans to be down to 345. He wants to be in the right shape so he can stay in the game in third-down situations, when he had to jog to the bench last season.

Saban said Cody wasn't all the way there Wednesday, but his physical transformation is evident.

"It's a gut-check," Cody said. "I've got to show them I'm not tired and can keep going."

Coming out of Gulf Coast College, Cody weighed more than 400. Mobility wasn't his strength, and rushing the quarterback wasn't much of an option. Pound by pound, Cody trimmed down as his profile rose.

He could have been a high-round draft pick if he left school following the 2008 season, but the Fort Myers, Fla., native chose to stick around for another season to add an extra dimension to his game. He recorded only half a sack as a junior, but opposing quarterbacks will be in Cody's crosshairs this fall.

The big man displayed his improved speed in April's A-Day game when he ran down running back Terry Grant from behind on a screen pass. But he was still disappointed when the coaches took him out of the scrimmage on obvious passing situations.

Losing the weight meant changing his eating habits. Fruits and vegetables now dominate his diet; he eats pizza only in moderation.

"I don't eat during the day. I eat at night," said Cody, who has been working out with fellow defensive lineman Josh Chapman. "That's my biggest enemy."

Cody's shrinking body hasn't changed what he calls a "superstar status" around the Alabama campus. Signing autographs and posing for pictures became a daily routine last season that ended with several All-America honors.

At this point, he can easily spot a fan eager to meet the player known as "Mount Cody."

"I can't hide myself," Cody said with his signature extra-large smile. "There is no way I can hide myself. I just stick out."

By April, the rising star hopes NFL teams recognize his potential and reward the progress he's made from an overweight but effective lineman into a leaner and versatile anchor of a professional defensive line.