The outside linebacker is one of the more variable positions for Nick Saban. In the earlier years, there was a fairly significant distinction between the Jack and the Sam linebackers in the 3-4 defense, with the former being mainly a pass rusher and the latter mostly used in outside contain in the run game.
As the Alabama defense has shifted more to a base nickel, the two positions have mostly become interchangeable left and right defensive ends who have to be able to drop back into flats coverage, depending on the play call.
Though the two spots have been manned well enough, the Alabama pass rush hasn’t quite matched what we saw in 2016 with Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson launching a blitzkrieg every single play. Will 2019 be the year that the edge rushing returns to being a true terror for opposing QBs?
Though the senior fought through a myriad of injuries over his career, he finally got to be a full-time starter in 2018. He wasn’t necessarily an elite pass rusher, but he performed quite admirably in that role, and was exceptional in coverage and in run defense. He’ll likely be a day 2 pick in the upcoming NFL draft, and will definitely be missed at Alabama.
The former walk-on was a multi year backup that got significant playing time in the 2017 season with injuries ravaging the rest of the Tide linebacking crew. Though his playing time diminished significantly last season, he was still a quality back-up with plenty of experience.
The 5th year senior has been on and off over the last three years, dealing with injuries and rotating in and out. He’s been a terror off the edge in some games, and disappeared for entire games in others. After a season-ending injury in 2017, he rehabbed and made it back for the season opener last year, but was obviously slower than he was in the past. Despite that, the 260-pound pass rusher racked up 14 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, and was outstanding at deflecting passes at the line of scrimmage, getting 12 on the year.
Another year removed from his knee injury, and Jennings is looking to really capitalize on his senior campaign.
At 6’6” 250, Lewis is a terrifyingly imposing physical specimen who’s been slated to be a starter in both 2017 and 2018. Unfortunately, a pectoral injury in the 2017 season opener sidelined him until the national championship game against Georgia, where his athleticism was on display as he harassed Jake Fromm all night— including the sack in overtime.
Then he tore an ACL before the 2018 season. Lewis’s potential as a pass rusher is out the roof, but he’s thus far been derailed by freak injuries. 2019 will be his chance to finally play in the regular season.
Once a 5-star, top-ten recruit with an Alabama legacy, Davis has thus far been totally non-existent in his first 3 years on campus. He’s swapped from inside to outside linebacker multiple times, but added about 15 pounds this offseason and looks to be set on playing outside. His continued disappearing act has become a bit of a joke around RBR, but don’t count him out just yet.
A true freshman in the 2017 season, Allen was thrust into a starting role as the Tide lost pretty much every starting linebacker in the season opener against Florida State. Allen flashed his talent, but wound up back on the bench as he struggled to pick up the right play calls so early in his career.
Set to be a top backup last year, he also tore his ACL in preseason, so he spent the whole season rehabbing with Lewis, and will be looking to work his way back into the rotation.
A five star freshman last year, Anoma was a highly athletic recruit who had only just picked up the sport of football two years prior. He got a decent amount of time in mop-up duty last year, but his 9 tackles and 2 TFL weren’t quite as big of splash as many were expecting.
He made some news late in the season as he opened up to the media about his struggles with learning disabilities and picking up the playbook, and then entered his name into the transfer portal before changing his mind a few days later.
He still has a lot of work to do, but has the potential to be an extremely talented pass rusher.
Parks famously chose to grayshirt at Alabama over many other scholarship offers despite being a top 100 prospect. He finally began to practice with the Tide in 2018, and wound up redshirting. He was rumored to be doing quite well last summer, but never played last season and took a redshirt.
He’s mostly still an unknown at this point, but is a big body with a lot of talent as both a pass rusher and a run stopper.
A solid 4-star prospect, Latu was an exceptionally explosive pass rusher out of Utah who doubles as a big tight end. He saw action in a couple of games last year, nabbing a couple of tackles, and ultimately got to redshirt. Like Parks, we haven’t seen much of anything from him yet, but he comes with a lot of upside.
Kevin Harris II
The freshman out of Georgia enrolled early and took the #44 jersey. At only 218 pounds, he’s a bit on the light side for an Alabama outside linebacker, and will definitely need to add at least 15 pounds in the next year or so. In any case, he’s a top 100 prospect and a quick twitch pass rusher with a similar game and playstyle to Tim Williams.
Projected A-Day depth chart
Jack- Anfernee Jennings, Eyabi Anoma, Jarez Parks, Kevin Harris
Sam- Terrell Lewis, Chris Allen, Ben Davis, Cameron Latu
Jennings and Lewis are almost assuredly your starters, barring more injuries. The Sam and Jack are really interchangeable, but the Jack is usually a little more likely to be a full defensive end.
Anoma and Allen are probably the next two up, as each have a good bit of in-game experience as a back up. Past that, the others are mostly just depth in case of injury.