Alabama Football Position Group Countdown: Zero Worries

Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan
Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan / Ryan Kang/GettyImages
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Jaheim Oatis
Alabama v Ole Miss / Justin Ford/GettyImages

3. Interior Defensive Line

The Alabama defensive line may be the deepest position group on the roster. Despite not having a bona fide star, the defensive line may have as many as seven bodies who are capable of playing starter’s reps. Justin Eboigbe moves on to the NFL after a very impressive 2023 campaign, but just about every other contributor returns. 

Grad student Tim Smith is back as one of the more experienced players on the team. Smith has been in the first-team rotation essentially since his freshman year in 2020, appearing in 51 career games and recording 89 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks. He looks to follow in the footsteps of Eboigbe, Byron Young, and Phil Mathis, all former teammates of his that patiently contributed for multiple years before breaking out as seniors. If Smith can do the same, he will be an NFL Draft selection in 2025.

Alabama also brings back junior Jaheim Oatis and redshirt junior Tim Keenan III, both of whom were key cogs on the defensive line in 2023. Keenan III was particularly stout in the center of the Bama defense, and is a plus athlete at the nose guard position. He notched 38 tackles and showed a high level of activity from a position that generally does not rack up a ton of statistics. 

Oatis already has two solid years under his belt, making 50 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 23 career games. He has produced despite having some trouble finding his identity on the defensive line. In 2024, Oatis must figure out his ideal playing weight and most natural position to maximize his skillset. 

Jaheim Oatis is something of a forgotten commodity due to perception. He burst onto the scene as a true freshman, surpassing all expectations and setting a pretty lofty bar for himself going forward. Although he was equally productive while battling injuries as a sophomore, he wasn’t as obviously impactful as guys like Eboigbe and Keenan III. This caused some fans to insinuate that he fell short of the hype, a narrative that was typically attributed to his drastic fluctuations in weight. Although many have forgotten, Jaheim Oatis is a legitimate difference-maker when he is healthy, and I think he will return to form this fall. 

The Tide will also return a pair of veteran rotational pieces in redshirt senior Jah-Marien Latham and redshirt junior Damon Payne. They have appeared in 31 and 19 games respectively, and have often been used situationally on the Bama defensive line. 

Sophomore James Smith is back after an impressive freshman campaign that saw him insert himself into what was already a deep and established rotation. He looks to generate more production in 2024, but it won’t be any easier to find additional snaps on this year’s defensive line. 

In addition to the notable returnees, Bama added Texas A&M transfer LT Overton to its defensive line room. The former 5-star logged 48 tackles in 23 games for the Aggies and gives the Tide another big, athletic, and experienced body along the defensive front. 

This position group has the highest floor of any on the team; depth and experience should not be a concern whatsoever. What remains to be seen is whether or not this group will produce a dominant player. There are plenty of viable candidates to pull it off.