Alabama Football: Defensive standouts heading into the bye week

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

The defense for Alabama Football has proven to be one of the nation’s best so far in 2023. It has been stout against the run, forced turnovers, and harassed opposing quarterbacks all season.

With the bye week underway, let’s take a look at some of Bama’s defensive standouts, which can be found at every level of the defense.

Let it be noted that the entire defensive line deserves an honorable mention here, as they have been very impactful as a collective unit. Although no individual defensive lineman has posted eye-popping season statistics, Justin Eboigbe, Tim Smith, Tim Keenan III, Jaheim Oatis, and Jah-Marien Latham have all proven to be game-changing players in various games.

Senior Justin Eboigbe leads the group with 38 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 3.0 sacks after missing most of last season with an injury.

Outside linebacker Dallas Turner may be the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. The junior leads the conference with 8.0 sacks, is second in the league with 12.0 tackles for loss, and is tied for first with two forced fumbles. He also has a team-leading 10 QB hurries.

On the other edge, Chris Braswell doesn’t get as much press as Turner. However, the senior has arguably been more disruptive. He ranks fourth in the SEC in sacks (6.5), fifth in tackles for loss (9.0), and is tied for the league lead with two forced fumbles.

Braswell has added a pick six and a blocked field goal, and has directly contributed to both of Bama’s defensive touchdowns this season. He also ran his own blocked kick in for a score, which would’ve been three defensive scores courtesy of Braswell had the return not been negated by a penalty.

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Deontae Lawson is one of the captains of this defense in more ways than one. He calls the signals from his Mike linebacker spot, serves as an emotional leader, and has been one of the SEC’s best on the field. Lawson has notched 49 tackles with 3.5 TFL and 2.0 sacks.

Senior safety Malachi Moore has been another leader, with the experience and versatility to play multiple positions in the secondary. Moore has 34 tackles, 4.0 TFL, and an interception for the Tide.

True freshman safety Caleb Downs has been a revelation, leading the team in tackles (63) and interceptions (2) in his first season of college football. Downs ranks fourth in the SEC in tackles, leads the league with 39 solo stops, and is still improving every week.

Terrion Arnold has surprisingly been Alabama’s best corner, although teams largely avoided Kool-Aid McKinstry through the first half of the season. Just a redshirt sophomore, Arnold has 40 tackles, 5.0 TFL, a sack, an interception, and a team-high six pass breakups.

Kool-Aid McKinstry and Jaylen Key have been very good in the Alabama secondary, while linebackers Trezmen Marshall and Jihaad Campbell have quietly put together productive seasons of their own.

Lastly, junior punter James Burnip has been a major field position weapon for Alabama Football. Burnip is averaging 48.2 yards per punt (3rd SEC), and has pinned opponents inside their own 20-yard line 13 times.

Next. Midseason Awards. dark

The defense for Alabama Football might be facing its toughest test yet when it hosts LSU in less than two weeks. Expect to see the aforementioned stars flying around the field against Jayden Daniels and company.