Alabama Football: Moving up or breaking through at OLB

Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports /

In an Alabama Football roster filled with outstanding and elite talent, the Crimson Tide’s outside linebackers stand out. The array of talent Alabama football assistant, Coleman Hutzler has at his disposal is close to being unprecedented.

Joining the Alabama Crimson Tide for the 2023 season are three 5-Star outside linebackers. It has become common to refer to their position as Edge and that is how they were ranked in the 247Sports Composite.

It is possible the three 5-Stars, Keon Keeley, Yhonzae Pierre, and Qua Russaw, along with highly rated 4-Star, Jordan Renaud will have to wait until the 2024 season for any significant playing time. Though Renaud was ranked as a recruit at the Edge position, he is expected to be a defensive end of the Crimson Tide.

The reason Keeley, Pierre and Russaw may not see much 2023 action is top recruits from the 2020, 2021 and 2022 classes are ahead of them.

Alabama Football Returning Outside Linebackers

  • Junior, Dallas Turner was a 5-Star and the No. 1 ranked Edge in the 2021 class.
  • Senior, Chris Braswell was a 5-Star and the No. 2 WDE in the 2020 class.
  • Senior, Quandarrius Robinson was a 4-Star and the No. 6 OLB in the 2020 class.
  • Redshirt Sophomore, Keanu Koht was a 4-Star and the No. 3 Edge in the 2021 class.
  • Redshirt Freshman, Jeremiah Alexander was a 5-Star and the No. 1 Edge in the 2022 class.

It makes quite a statement about Alabama Football recruiting that with the five ‘highly rated’ returning players, Nick Saban and his staff were able to add three, 5-Star Edge/Linebackers.

In standard Alabama football terminology, the Crimson Tide has four linebacker positions, with the outside backers identified as ‘Jack’ and ‘Sam’ linebackers. The Alabama Crimson Tide defense is so multiple, with frequent player rotation, as many as three of the ‘outside’ linebackers could be on the field at the same time. But the added packages and frequent rotation do not mean more than four outside linebackers will get considerable game action. In some games, it will be only three.

Injuries might increase the three or four number to five or six, but short of an injury epidemic, at least a couple of highly talented linebackers must wait their turn.

The newest of the Crimson Tide’s outside linebacker group will need time to build strength and add weight. Russaw has an advantage, having enrolled early, unlike Keeley and Pierre. Physically, all three could be ready in the second half of the season.

Next. Ranking the Tide's 3 Toughest Games. dark

Perhaps college football has an outside linebacker or two better than Dallas Turner (and perhaps not). What no other college football team has is three outside linebackers better than Turner, Chris Braswell, and the eventual winner of the battle to be the Tide’s No. 3 OLB.