The defense for Alabama Football is coming off of a game in which it looked as good as it has in several seasons, but it lost middle linebacker and captain Deontae Lawson in the process. Lawson was Bama’s leading tackler heading into that week four game against Ole Miss, and is currently listed as “day-to-day” with an ankle sprain.
Will the defense be able to maintain its level of intensity if it must play without its primary signal-caller?
The encouraging news is that the Alabama defense played most of the Ole Miss game without Deontae Lawson and did not appear to miss a beat. Lawson went down in the first half and did not return, but Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss offense scored just a single field goal after his injury, and could muster only 10 points for the entire game.
If this showing was any indication, the Crimson Tide defense should be fine for a couple weeks while Lawson recovers.
Still, his loss is significant. The redshirt sophomore inside linebacker is on track for a career season, with 26 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and a pair of sacks in just under three and a half games of action. Thus far, he has lived up to his billing as a potential first round draft pick.
In addition to his play on the field, Lawson is an excellent communicator and one of the undisputed leaders of this defense. Hopefully he will not be out for an extended period of time, as Alabama Football goes on the road to play Mississippi State this week before going to College Station to play Texas A&M the following week.
Alabama Football: Filling the void
Alabama has no dearth of talent at inside linebacker. In Deontae Lawson’s presumed absence, it will need increased contributions from a trio of linebackers who were already seeing significant playing time.
True sophomore Jihaad Campbell is the most similar to Lawson in terms of raw athleticism. He appears to be at full-go after missing most of the first two games with an injury of his own, and is coming off of a career-high seven tackles against Ole Miss. Campbell has 14 tackles for the season.
Perhaps Campbell’s early injury was a blessing in disguise, as it created a path to playing time for two linebackers that Bama now once again needs to step up. Senior Trezmen Marshall and junior Kendrick Blackshire are both physical, veteran players that are already accustomed to playing a role in the Alabama defense.
Marshall, a transfer from Georgia with an injury history of his own, already has a career-high 21 tackles this season. Blackshire also has a career-best with 13 tackles through four games, and forced a takeaway in week one against Middle Tennessee State.
JUCO transfer Justin Jefferson is another player that could see increased snaps if Lawson must be out for an extended period of time. Jefferson is an undersized ‘backer who drew rave reviews in the spring for his athleticism and energy. In such a crowded inside linebacker room, he has been largely relegated to special teams play thus far. He made a big play on the kickoff coverage unit in Bama’s win over Ole Miss, laying a lick on a Rebel return man and forcing a fumble.
Deontae Lawson was one of the last players Alabama Football wanted to lose as SEC competition gets underway, but the depth it possesses in this position group has to make the coaching staff feel a little better about his loss.