Coming into fall camp, Alabama had four upperclassmen starting at the linebacker slots, led by surefire first round prospect Dylan Moses in the middle, as you can find in our inside and outside previews.
My, how times change.
The Tide lost not one, but both starting inside linebackers before the season’s first snap. Left in the middle are two true freshmen, both very highly touted but having to learn on the fly.
By and large, Shane Lee and Christian Harris have performed admirably after being thrown into the fire before they were ready. Lee seems to be trying to take the reins of the defense and lead. His run fits inside have been solid overall, but as a huge MLB he struggles to get to the edge. His knowledge as an early enrollee and ability to get others lined up has left him in at Mack in dime, despite the relative lack of speed. After a rough game against South Carolina, Harris has looked much better in terms of reading, tackling and run fits in the last two outings.
Outside, Terrell Lewis has been outstanding when he has played, though Saban has treated him with kid gloves in terms of exposure to injury. He did struggle some with South Carolina’s left tackle and probably needs to develop a counter move to the speed rush. He’s very fast off the ball, though. Anfernee Jennings has been a stalwart at Jack, with Christopher Allen getting some run as well. Both have set the edge pretty well, for the most part...
Ole Miss isn’t included in that “most part” above. For whatever reason, the Tide had a terrible time setting the edge against speedy Ole Miss QB John Rhys Plumlee. That is an issue that Saban mentioned specifically, and it must get corrected. As of now, offensive coordinators are going to test outside zone early and often against this crew. The edge rush hasn’t been as fast as one would have hoped, though that should improve as Lewis works himself into more reps.
The Will linebacker spot has been uneven at best thus far. Harris seemed to improve in the past two weeks, but the jury is still out on that position. Poor run fits like we saw against South Carolina will make things very difficult if they aren’t corrected. He has flashed the ability to tackle in space, but for the most part he looks like the 18-year-old who has been on campus for three months that he is.
Ale Kaho hasn’t looked any better when he has subbed in for Harris, and somehow Markail Benton seems to be unable to garner any meaningful playing time. So, basically, you have two true freshmen starting inside and essentially no depth behind them. Be sure to stock up on the Maalox.
It’s tough to grade this group. Do you judge them based on the typical Alabama standard, or do you grade them based on realistic expectations considering the circumstances? There is no question that this has been the weakest overall position group, but how could it not be? Hopefully they will improve, but the lack of depth inside is just too much for anything higher.
What do you think? Am I being too hard on them, or are you seeing the same things?
What grade do you give the LBs so far?
This poll is closed