4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE ALABAMA DEFENSE
– By any reasonable and normal standard, the Alabama defense was incredible. By the standard set under Nick Saban, the D was a total disaster. Okay, that’s a bit much considering the pass rush was fantastic and the team gave up just 320 yards and 18 points per game.
However, as Georgia’s Jake Fromm, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence showed, it was possible to put up big numbers against the secondary. All those three did was combine for close to 1,000 passing yards with eight touchdowns and no picks. But …
– This is one seriously talented secondary. Bama always has top-shelf talent at defensive back, but this is an NFL group.
Junior safety Xavier McKinney was third on the team in tackles and senior Jared Mayden is fine at free safety, but there’s about to be a wave of recruits who’ll be rushing hard for jobs, starting with 6-2 Jordan Battle out of Florida.
Shyheim Carter picked off two passes and made 44 tackles moving around safety spots – living at the Star position – and there will be some rotation from the corners to see time at the spot.
Patrick Surtain was an NFL talent from Day One with 6-2, 202-pound size at one corner, and when healthy, Trevor Diggs – he missed time with a foot injury – is a baller with 6-2 size, too. Like the safety jobs, though, the star freshmen are coming in looking to take over time at corner.
– As long as everyone can stay in one piece, the Bama linebackers will be as good as always, starting with leading tackler Dylan Moses returning to the inside. Senior Joshua McMillon is getting his time to step up and shine at the other inside spot.
The outside is set, but again, has to stay in one piece. 6-5, 252-pound junior Terrell Lewis has all the tools to be a dangerous edge rusher, but he’s coming off a knee injury, and 6-3, 259-pound senior Anfernee Jennings is back on the other side. There’s better depth outside than in.
– Is there another Quinnen Williams? That’s asking for a whole lot, and it’s asking the world of a true freshman to step in and try to replace – arguably – the best defensive player in college football. 6-3, 314-pound true freshman DJ Dale – a good but no five-star recruit – looked ready right out of the box in spring ball. As always, there will be a rotation inside, but there’s no real experience on the nose.
The ends are in better shape with 6-7, 309-pound mainstay Raekwon Davis on one side, and 6-5, 385-pound LaBryan Ray set on the other. Overall, though, this is going to be a very, very young line – at least for Alabama.