Alabama Football: Search continues for dominant interior defensive lineman

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama football has gone several years without a bona fide top-10 pick on its interior defensive line. While it has produced quality defensive linemen, it hasn’t had a truly elite player at the position since Quinnen Williams went third overall in the 2019 NFL draft.

Over the past three seasons, Christian Barmore, Phidarian Mathis, and Byron Young have stepped up as leaders on the defensive front in Tuscaloosa. Barmore and Mathis parlayed their success into professional opportunities, being chosen in the second round of the 2021 and 2022 NFL drafts, respectively. Young will likely be taken in somewhere in the middle rounds of the 2023 draft.

Going into next season, Alabama football will no longer have Byron Young or fellow senior DJ Dale, who are both participating in the Reese’s Senior Bowl and entering the draft.

The Tide still return plenty of experience on the defensive line, led by redshirt senior Justin Eboigbe. Eboigbe missed most of the 2022 season with a neck injury that required surgery. He has appeared in 33 career games, recording 59 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, an interception, two pass deflections, and two fumble recoveries.

Alabama will also return a trio of former 4-star recruits from the class of 2020 in Tim Smith, Jamil Burroughs and Jah-Marien Latham.

Senior Tim Smith has lots of experience, playing in 38 career games with nine starts. He has recorded 59 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, a pass deflection, two fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble. Smith has shown flashes of sky-high potential, becoming a disruptive playmaker in moments on the defensive line.

Redshirt juniors Burroughs and Latham have combined to play in 38 games. Burroughs has had the bigger impact of the two, with 15 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, and two sacks. Both Burroughs and Latham will compete for starting roles in 2023.

Sophomore Jaheim Oatis may be the man to watch. The massive nose guard stepped in and took a starting job as a true freshman, playing in 12 games with 10 starts in 2022.

Oatis was one of Bama’s most impactful defensive lineman from the jump, notching 29 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, and two pass deflections. After another offseason in the strength and conditioning program, he could be the bully on Alabama’s 2023 defensive line.

Redshirt sophomores Damon Payne Jr. and Monkell Goodwine will enter their third seasons in the program, and both saw playing time in 2022.

Freshman James Smith was a five-star recruit and the top player in the state of Alabama in the 2023 class. He was the face of a very good defensive line class for Alabama, and figures to be the future face of the defensive front. It will be interesting to see if he can push for snaps in year one.

Next. The new faces of the Alabama defense. dark

Redshirt sophomores Tim Keenan III and Anquin Barnes, redshirt freshmen Khurtiss Perry and Isaiah Hastings, and true freshmen Edric Hill, Jordan Renaud, and Hunter Osborne round out the defensive line depth chart for Alabama Football.