Alabama Football: What will the defense look like?

Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan
Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

Following the retirement announcement of Coach Nick Saban, many Alabama Football fans had concerns about the 2024 defense.

With Coach Saban, Kevin Steele, and Travaris Robinson all gone in less than a week’s time, there was little information regarding who would be in charge of the Alabama defense. Compounded with the losses of standout players like Justin Eboigbe, Dallas Turner, Chris Braswell, Kool-Aid McKinstry, Terrion Arnold, and Caleb Downs, the defensive question marks were very legitimate.

Now that Alabama’s defensive staff is mostly in place, we can begin to picture how the Tide might look defensively this fall.

Head coach Kalen DeBoer first added defensive coordinator Kane Wommack, formerly the head coach of South Alabama. He then added Maurice Linguist, the former head coach of Buffalo who will serve as a co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach for the Crimson Tide. Most recently, DeBoer and his staff hired Colin Hitschler, who previously served as the co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach for Wisconsin.  

Collectively, this defensive staff is young and ambitious. It should bring energy on that side of the ball, as well as a fresh philosophical approach. 

Alabama Football: Defensive Personnel

The staff will have plenty of talent to work with, even given the departures Alabama has dealt with over the last week and a half. The interior defensive line has lots of depth with the returns of Tim Smith, Jaheim Oatis, Tim Keenan III, Jah-Marien Latham, Damon Payne, and James Smith, as well as the addition of Texas A&M transfer LT Overton. 

On the edge, veterans Quandarrius Robinson and Keanu Koht are back, as are former 5-star redshirt freshmen Keon Keeley, Yhonzae Pierre, and Qua Russaw. 

At linebacker, the Tide will feature one of the best duos in the sport in redshirt junior Deontae Lawson and junior Jihaad Campbell. 

Where potential question marks lie is in the Alabama secondary. Bama loses both starting safeties and both starting cornerbacks from its 2023 roster, and will have to replace a lot of production at those positions.

Malachi Moore is an extremely versatile piece returning for his fifth year, and will be the unquestioned leader on the back end. It will be interesting to see where he primarily lines up in Wommack’s defense. 

Senior Devonta Smith and sophomore Tony Mitchell will attempt to hold off incoming talent at the safety positions. At corner, Bama may need to add more experience via the transfer portal. It already has USC transfer Domani Jackson, and returns redshirt freshman Jahlil Hurley. True freshman Jaylen Mbakwe was one of the most highly-touted recruits in the class of 2024, and could factor into the rotation quickly. 

As much as has been made about the departures for Alabama Football, there is a lot of talent left in the cupboard. If Bama can successfully shore up its secondary, it should once again have one of the best defensive units in the country.