Among the top goals for Alabama Football this season are two that include brute force vs. brute force. There are also reads and techniques involved, but for both sides of the line of scrimmage, it begins with physically dominating opponents.
There is considerable confidence the Crimson Tide offensive line will be more physically dominating than last season. On the other side of the ball, there is reason for encouragement as well. A healthy Justin Eboigbe and Jaheim Oatis give the Crimson Tide two future NFL players in the defensive front.
In the spring Alabama football fans were expecting 2023 to be a big season for Tim Smith. Smith has shown flashes of outstanding play and a strong 2023 is needed to improve his 2024 NFL Draft position. During fall camp Nick Saban pointed out that Smith needs to perform at a high level more consistently.
Based on last Saturday’s scrimmage, Smith will be in the rotation but not part of the Tide’s top three in the defensive front. Instead, Tim Keenan III worked at nose in the scrimmage, with Jaheim Oatis moved outside to a defensive end position.
Bama Insider’s Tony Tsoukalas reported Keenan has dropped 28 pounds and,
"The offensive line hates going up against big Tim Keenan. He’s so low and so strong. He’s hard to block."
There is remaining doubt about the Tide’s offensive line and its pass blocking, but there is almost no doubt about its run blocking. That they are having a tough time with Keenan is great news for Alabama football.
On the defensive front, the trio of Oatis, Keenan and Eboigbe could be much improved over last season. Last season, against Power Five teams, Alabama’s defense was No. 38 in rushing defense, allowing an average of 4.05 yards. In comparison, the average was 2.91 yards in 2021 which was eighth-best in the FBS.
Rushing defense is not all on the front, but if both Keenan and Oatis will frequently demand double-teams from opponents, the Tide’s linebackers will eat up run games.
Alabama Football Defensive Line Backups
Of course, it is not as simple as good the starters are, it is also about the guys who rotate in behind them. At this point, the next four are believed to be Tim Smith, Jah-Marien Latham, Damon Payne and Monkell Goodwine. When Payne committed to Alabama he was a 5-Star and the No. 1 defensive tackle in the 2021 class. Alabama football insiders believe Payne is on track to perform a key rotational role this season.
Note: Rushing Defense stats provided by cfbstats.com
On the Crimson Tide horizon is another former 5-Star, James Smith. Can the freshman help with this season’s depth that Nick Saban keeps fretting over? If he can, and barring injuries to Oatis, Eboigbe and Keenan, the Crimson Tide defensive line can become a team strength.