Alabama Football: Linebackers need to make Defense great again

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Alabama football fall practice starts Friday, August 2. Dylan Moses, Pete Golding, and Sal Sunseri have to ensure this season’s linebacker group regain its dominance.

Built on dominant defenses throughout its existence, Alabama football leans on the hard-nosed play of top-notch, physical, intimidating linebackers. Alabama linebackers litter All-American teams throughout the past century. The lineage of linebackers under Nick Saban at Alabama is historic. He has rarely whiffed in recruiting at this position. A few of the alpha dogs are Rolando McClain, CJ Mosley, Reuben Foster, Courtney Upshaw, Reggie Ragland, and Donta Hightower.

As teams began running more hurry-up no-huddle offenses, Alabama had to adjust from big run thumpers to leaner, faster and mobile backers. Injuries have ravaged the linebacker corps the past two seasons, robbing the group of reaching its mass potential. Terrell Lewis and Christopher Allen suffered season-ending injuries in fall camp, thus severely limiting the pass rush.

The rushing defense fell to nineteenth (121.27 ypg) in the country after leading the year prior (94.71). In the final three games, the inability to pressure the passer stood out as a glaring weakness for the Crimson Tide. In the championship game, the team produced zero sacks. The losses of Christian Miller, Lewis, and Allen profoundly altered the ability to affect the passer.

Inside Linebackers

Returning to lead the defense, junior Dylan Moses assumes the duty as the defensive play-caller. A Butkus Award finalist, Moses is a commanding presence for new defensive coordinator Pete Golding. Moses led the team in tackles with 86. Destined to be great since he was an eighth-grader, Moses possesses all the tools to become the Tide’s next defensive Alpha Dog.

Replacing the player opposite of Moses, departed junior Mack Wilson, is Joshua McMillon. The senior has a dogfight on his hands as he attempts to hold off hungry Ale Kaho and Shane Lee. The Memphis native recorded 14 tackles last season. During this year’s A-Day, he finished with seven tackles and one tackle for loss.

Shane Lee, one of the top-rated inside linebackers in this year’s class, held his own under the bright lights with eight tackles (six solos) and one interception. Lee earned the Ozzie Newsome Most Improved Freshman Award after the contest.

Ale Kaho transferred to Alabama from Washington. Despite a limited fall camp, Kaho was a special teams demon. Twice named special teams player of the week, Ale expects to bring the tenacity from special teams to the inside linebacker position. Although extremely talented, Kaho needs to exert himself mentally for the preparation it takes to run a Saban led defense.

Two linebackers providing depth are former highly rated linebackers, Markail Benton and Jaylen Moody.

Outside Linebackers

OLB coach Sal Sunseri returns to the Capstone. He inherits a talented group, and he will undoubtedly whip them into shape.

Anfernee Jennings leads the charge for the outside linebackers. When fully healthy, Jennings is a disruptive force. Look at the highlights of the 2018 College Football Playoff semifinal versus Clemson. After the spring game, Jennings won the Dwight Stephenson Award (Most Valuable Lineman of the Alabama football, A-Day game). He sets the edge pristinely and can pressure the quarterback (5.5 sacks last season, good for fourth on the team).

Alabama Football
NEW ORLEANS, LA – JANUARY 01: Terrell Lewis #24 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts in the first half of the Allstate Sugar Bowl against the Clemson Tigers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2018, in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Lewis rejoins the starting lineup after tearing his ACL. Saban sat him out of spring practice and A-Day to ensure Lewis did not reinjure himself. The redshirt junior is a terror off the edge and bludgeons opposing quarterbacks and running backs. Unfortunately, injuries have prevented Lewis from playing and showing the nation his talent.

Redshirt sophomore Christopher Allen returns after suffering a knee injury in a fall scrimmage. Back to full strength, Allen provided three tackles and two sacks in the spring game. Another terror off the edge, Allen will give opposing quarterbacks and tackles nightmares.

One player who was expected to contribute this season, Eyabi Anoma departed. News broke Friday morning that the sophomore linebacker did not enroll in classes for the fall. He no longer desires to remain at Alabama as he re-entered the transfer portal Sunday night. Redshirt freshman Jarez Parks should fill in for Ayoba.

Pray for no injuries to occur during fall camp because it would threaten a dangerous linebacker group that can afflict severe pain to the opposition.

What Happens If Anoma Returns or Doesn't. dark. Next

Alabama football needs the linebacker group to exert greatness this fall. The defense goes as this group goes.