Most important aspect of the 2023 Alabama Football team to replace

Alabama v Mississippi State
Alabama v Mississippi State / Michael Chang/GettyImages

Alabama Football will bring a new approach into the 2024 season under new coach Kalen DeBoer. While the core values of the program figure to remain intact, DeBoer will bring his own style to Tuscaloosa in an attempt to continue the Tide’s winning ways. 

This year’s team will be replacing a lot of production from 2023, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Among the departures, perhaps the most important area for the team to try to recreate is the pass rush. 

The 2023 pass rush was one of college football’s most dominant. Led by edge rushers Dallas Turner (10 sacks) and Chris Braswell (8 sacks), along with defensive lineman Justin Eboigbe (7 sacks), the Bama defense regularly pressured quarterbacks and wreaked havoc on opposing offenses. With all three of its sack leaders set to play on Sundays this fall, Bama will need some of its returnees to step up. 

Veterans Quandarrius Robinson and Keanu Koht figure to lead the Wolf position in Kane Wommack’s 4-2-5 defense. This is essentially the equivalent of the outside linebacker or Jack position that has traditionally featured the team’s top pass rushers under Nick Saban.

Though Robinson, a redshirt senior, and Koht, a redshirt junior, have been around for awhile, neither is a proven commodity. The pair has sat behind an insane run of 5-stars including Will Anderson Jr., Dallas Turner, Chris Braswell, and Drew Sanders over the past three to four years. 

Robinson has contributed heavily on special teams and did well in a pass rush specialist role last season, notching 24 tackles and 1.5 sacks. As the only player on the roster with significant playing experience at the position, his role figures to increase in 2024. Is he capable of being an every-down player? If not, someone else will have to emerge.

Behind these two vets is another wave of 5-stars, who many believe will emerge at some point this season. Keon Keeley was the gem of Bama’s 2023 recruiting class. He has since transitioned to the Bandit role, but could still contribute to the pass rush this fall. 

Fellow former 5-stars Qua Russaw and Yhonzae Pierre could be the difference-makers at Wolf. Both super-athletic edge players and natives of Alabama, these two raise the ceiling of the Alabama pass rush significantly. Russaw in particular has been impressive this spring and is one of the most explosive pound-for-pound players on the roster. 

On the interior defensive line, defensive ends like Jah-Marien Latham, Damon Payne and Texas A&M transfer LT Overton could take their games to the next level. All three are older players with SEC experience under their belts. Veterans Tim Smith, Tim Keenan, and Jaheim Oatis are most valuable as run-stuffers, but could also provide a pocket-pushing presence from the defensive tackle position. 

In Kane Wommack’s blitz-friendly system, linebackers Deontae Lawson and Jihaad Campbell could be the X-factors in the Crimson Tide pass rush. Both ‘backers have a lot of speed, and are experienced players that will time and disguise blitzes effectively.

Even secondary players like grad student Malachi Moore have proven to be effective on the blitz. Moore figures to be further away from the line of scrimmage playing a true safety role this year, so perhaps a player like true freshman Red Morgan can be disruptive in opposing backfields from the Husky position. 

Wommack’s defense prides itself on aggressiveness and tenacity; will that mindset translate to an effective Alabama pass rush in 2024?