Alabama Football: Who will it be at Jack LB and RG against Georgia?

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09: Offensive lineman Bradley Bozeman
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09: Offensive lineman Bradley Bozeman /

Alabama football will need one and maybe two new starters in the national championship game. Who are the options at Jack linebacker and Right guard?

Alabama football depth will be tested again in the national championship game. Jack linebacker, Anfernee Jennings must be replaced after a knee injury against Clemson that required surgery. Right guard, Lester Cotton also injured a knee in the Clemson game. There is no official word yet on Cotton but his status is at best questionable and probably doubtful.

Alabama football has options at both spots. There are multiple players who play outside linebacker who can play the Jack position. Only one player with any significant game experience is available to step in at right guard.

The Jack Linebacker Options

Anfernee Jennings had a big game against Clemson. He recorded five tackles, four solo, plus three tackles for a loss and one sack. It was also Anfernee’s rake of Kelly Bryant’s arm that caused the interception gathered in by Da’Ron Payne. In 11 games, Anfernee made a total of 41 tackles, two pass breakups, forced two fumbles and four quarterback hurries. Such significant production is not easy to replace.

Nick Saban indicated Christian Miller, Terrell Lewis and Jamey Mosley are options to replace Jennings. None of them have prototypical size for an Alabama football Jack linebacker. Jennings is six-foot-three and 262 pounds. Miller is six-foot-four and 240 pounds; Mosley is six-foot-five and 248 pounds; Lewis is six-foot-five and 254 pounds. None of the three have quite the bulk needed as run stoppers. In pass rushing and pass coverage, Miller and Lewis are probably better than Jennings. None of the three have big game experience equal to Anfernee.

Having finally recovered from their injuries, Miller and Lewis were already regulars in the Tide rotation. Their primary focus was to rush the passer. Against Georgia’s one back – two tight end set, Alabama will play less Dime and more Base and Nickel defenses. Those formations depend on outside linebackers with pass rush, pass coverage and run-stopping ability.

There is a fourth possible option. True freshman LaBryan Ray does have a prototypical Jack linebacker body at six-foot-five and 272 pounds. Ray is coming off a foot injury but could have played in the Clemson game. He has participated in six games. The majority of his practice time has been dedicated to being a defensive lineman. The former 5-Star recruit has a bright Tide future. Is it ready for the game’s biggest stage?

The Guard Options

J.C. Hassenauer is listed on the depth chart as the backup at left and right guard. The senior has game experience. He filled in well when Piersbacher was hurt early in the Mississippi State game. He is capable and the logical choice if Lester Cotton cannot play. At 295 pounds J.C. is not undersized but at six-foot-two he appears almost small next to the Tide tackles.

If another lineman was to go down or if Hassenauer struggles, the Tide has some inexperienced talent that could step in. Redshirt freshman, Deonte Brown is one of the strongest players on the team but has struggled with weight problems. He is listed at 350 pounds.

A more probable option would be true freshman, Jedrick Wills. All through fall camp Wills battled Matt Womack for the starting right tackle slot. Wills is a very physical player who can play guard or tackle. He has limited experience but is used at right tackle in the Tide’s jumbo package. Womack could also slide to right guard with Wills at right tackle. Wills might be fine run-blocking but may not be ready to deliver in pass protection.

Next: The Alabama Football All-Time Team

Alabama football preaches ‘next man up’ and the Tide’s depth affords options. Having to use those options in a national championship game is less than optimal.