Last week, we posted a piece on the best nose tackles in the Saban era, and today we move to the defensive ends. The three defensive line positions have been fairly fluid for Nick Saban, especially post-2013, but there’s still a fairly distinct line for nose tackle, defensive end, and edge rusher. A’Shawn Robinson is an example of a guy who had seasons started at both, but for this exercise he’ll be in today’s grouping, rather than the nose tackles.
The rules are fairly simple here, but also they absolutely will not be totally consistent. I’m making them up as we go and each position will be handled differently. I will choose the top candidates for spots on the All-Saban team, and different members of the RBR staff will present their argument to you as to why his player should be considered over the others. There is no criteria on the type of argument, so anything from stats, to important plays, to NFL performance is fair game.
In this case, Alabama has produced three guys that stand out above the others, and there can only be two First-Teamers. So you’ll see the arguments presented for all three, and pick your favorite. The top-two vote receivers will be on the first team, and the other guy will be second team.
Then we’ll see arguments for 3 more guys, and the winner of that vote will be the other 2nd-team defensive end.
BamaBrave4 on Jonathan Allen:
In a field that’s as loaded as Defensive End is for the All-Saban team, it would take quite the resume to be named the very best of the bunch. After all, you don’t just beat out national champions like Jarran Reed and Dalvin Tomlinson, or legendary players like A’Shawn Robinson and Marcell Dareus.
Jonathan Allen does.
A high school All-American in 2012, Allen spent his first season in Tuscaloosa playing mostly in mop-up duty, though he did register 3 TFL and a forced fumble. In 2014, Allen became one of the mainstays of the historic Defensive Line group that led the way to three-straight SEC Championships and a National Championship from 2014-2016 (as an aside, think about how incredible it is that the 2015 defensive line included Allen, A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed, Daron Payne, Dalvin Tomlinson, D.J. Pettway, and Da’Shawn Hand). In 2016, Allen put together his pièce de résistance, logging 69 tackles. 16 TFL, 10.5 sacks, 3 pass deflections, 3 fumble recoveries, and the game clinching pick-six against Ole Miss that capped a huge revenge-fueled come-back:
And who could forget when he took flight and revealed himself to be Super Man:
By the end of the year, Allen was named an unanimous First Team All-American, and cleaned up at every awards ceremony presented that December, winning SEC Defensive Player of the Year, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Lombardi Award, and the Chuck Bednarik Award. The clean sweep of national defensive player of the year awards is a rare feat very few in history have been able to accomplish. Those achievements were placed on his personal trophy shelf alongside his three First-Team All-SEC selections. After his career at Alabama finished up, Allen was drafted 17th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins, where he now joins former ‘Bama teammate Daron Payne as the anchors of one of the best lines in the NFL. In three seasons, he’s totaled 139 tackles, 18 TFL, 15 sacks, and 31 QB hits, despite missing half of his rookie season with a foot injury.
Defensive End includes a loaded group of talented and accomplished players in the Saban Era, but no one else has the overall resume that Jonathan Allen does. It’ll be interesting to see who joins him on the First-Team between A’Shawn and Marcell. though.
I mean, check out this highlight tape below. Allen made so many big, pivotal plays in his Alabama career. From defensive end.
Josh on A’Shawn Robinson:
A’Shawn Robinson was a massive pull out of Texas, a composite five-star DL in the 2013 class at an athletic 6’5” and 302 lbs. He wasted no time making an impact as he led the team in sacks en route to making the All-SEC and All-America freshman teams. He was a stalwart on the DL for the next two seasons, and was the unquestioned leader of an unblockable 2015 front that carried the Tide to a national title. Robinson is country strong, as one would imagine at his size, but he is also freakishly athletic.
After all, who can forget this?
A’Shawn blocked three kicks during his career. At the end of the 2015 season he was voted a first-team consensus All-American and should have won the Outland Trophy. As mostly a space eater his stats won’t jump off the page and he probably didn’t get all of the accolades he deserved, but anyone who watched the game could see the way he terrorized opposing offensive lines. He deserves a spot here, and if you decide not to vote for him, well, you tell him why.
You know what you need to do, people. A’Shawn is the man.
CB969 on Marcell Dareus:
After Antonio Langham’s interception return for a touchdown against Florida in the inaugural SEC Championship Game, Marcell Dareus produced the most memorable pick-six in Alabama football history. It was the only interception of his career but it came in the biggest game of the season - the BCS National Championship Game vs Texas.
Pick, stiff arm, spin, and Alabama is up 24-6 going into halftime. That play changed the trajectory of the game as well as the Nick Saban era at Alabama. Had the score changed to 17-13, 17-9, or even stayed at 17-6 who knows what fates may have befell all involved.
It is hard to discuss the Birmingham native without mentioning this moment. He was the first in a string of nimble athletic big men to grace the gridiron of Bryant-Denny under Saban. Dareus was the blueprint for the kind of defensive lineman the Tide coach knew he needed to continue to sign in future recruiting classes.
This big-man touchdown alone should be enough to endear Dareus into your hearts, but he was more than just one play. As a senior at Huffman High School, he registered an amazing 117 tackles and 20 sacks. During his freshman year at Alabama, he played back-up but often replaced Terrence Cody on passing downs due to Mt Cody’s limitations.
In Year 2, Dareus became the Crimson Tide’s top pass rusher. He totaled 33 total tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss (-49 yards), seven quarterback hurries, and 6.5 sacks. Oh yeah... and one interception. He was named BCS National Championship MVP for his efforts.
As a junior, he was again a terror totaling 34 total tackles, 11.0 tackles for loss (-41), 4.5 quarterback sacks (-26), ten quarterback hurries, and four pass breakups - all this despite missing the first two games of the season. Dareus was named first-team All-SEC for his efforts.
After declaring for the NFL Draft, he became the third overall pick in 2011 by the Buffalo Bills, where he would remain a defensive stalwart for seven seasons before moving to his current team in Jacksonville. Along the way, he was named an All-Rookie and played in a pair of Pro Bowls (2013, 2014).
Who was Alabama’s best defensive end under Nick Saban?
This poll is closed
Next up is the three-way race for second team. There were a number of guys like Quinton Dial and Raekwon Davis who probably deserved a shot here, but, the list has to be pared at some point, and I figured those guys had little chance of winning.
Brent on Jarran Reed:
The top rated JUCO player in the nation out of EMCC, Jarran Reed went from an unranked linebacker in high school to a elite defensive tackle capable of winning a starting job for the best defense in college football in only one summer in Tuscaloosa. In Reed’s first year, he racked up 55 tackles— more than any interior lineman since Wallace Gillberry in 2007. The fiery personality along the defensive line could have taken off for the NFL after only one season, but decided to stay at Alabama for his senior year to attempt to win a championship. Which he did.
Reed became an emotional team leader on a star-studded 2015 defensive squad, upping his numbers to 57 tackles as a senior. Oh, and he made a pivotal tackle in the national championship where the 310-lb man ran down the most dynamic player in college football in DeShaun Watson:
Reed was drafted in the second round of the following NFL draft, and after being a capable starter for two years, had a break-out Pro Bowl season in 2018 where he led the Seahawks with 10.5 sacks.
Reed’s personality, leadership, work ethic, and surprising athletic ability make him a shoe-in for second team All-Saban. If you ask me.
Roger on Dalvin Tomlinson:
The renaissance man. Dalvin Tomlinson. Honor student, artist, musician, three time state wrestling champion, soccer player, football player, orphan. Dalvin Tomlinson isn’t your typical jock. Tomlinson’s father died when he was five, his mom left him orphaned in his senior year of high school.
None of that held him back. The Georgia native won three straight state wrestling titles, continued to draw, make music, play soccer, shine on the football field and in the class room. Tomlinson had 50 plus offers, including an academic offer to Harvard.
Tomlinson redshirted in 2012 as he recovered from ACL surgery stemming from a high school soccer injury. He worked himself into the rotation in 2013, but tore his ACL again in the seasons first game. DT was a rotational player with Jonathan Hand, DJ Petway, Jaron Reed , A’Shawn Robinson, et la in 2014 and 2015 and developed a penchant for knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage. As a red shirt senior in 2016 Tomlinson shined, to the tune of 62 tackles, 5.5 TFL, three sacks, and five deflected passes. His effort landed him as a second round pick of the NY Giants, were he still plays today.
A very underrated player, that overcame all the odds to become a great player. Tomlinson deserves a spot on the All Saban Team. Roll Tide. Believe in the process.
DrWhosOnFirst on Damion Square
Damion Square came to Tuscaloosa as a 4 star recruit in the Class of 2008 and redshirted his first year. The following year, he played in each of the first two games despite not appearing on the initial depth chart Alabama released in late August. Unfortunately, Square tore his ACL in the second game; and he missed the rest of the season.
Square bounced back, however. He began practicing again in December and worked throughout the offseason. It paid off; and Square was listed on the second team behind Marcel Dareus and Luther Davis. Square played in all 13 games in 2010, recording 27 tackles. He was third on the team in tackles for loss with 7 (behind Dareus and Courtney Upshaw) despite just being a rotational player. He totaled 3 sacks and a QB hurry.
With Dareus and Davis both gone after the 2010 season, Square stepped up into the starting line-up. He started all 13 games for the Tide’s suffocating 2011 defense, wracking up 32 tackles with 7 TFL (third on the team again) while adding 3 QB hurries. Square came on particularly strong down the stretch, recording 20 tackles, 4.5 TFL, and his lone sack in the final five games.
Square came back for his redshirt senior season in 2012 and started all 14 games for the Tide. He had a career-high 33 tackles and a career-high 3.5 sacks (tied for third on the team), one of which was a game-ending sack that clinched Alabama’s win over LSU.
His TFL production dipped to just 4, but he made up for that by easily leading the team in QB hurries. Square registered 9 QB hurries; only one other player managed 5 QB hurries.
Square finished his Alabama career with 93 tackles, 18.5 TFL, 14 QB hurries, and 7.5 sacks while playing a key rotational role for one year and then starting on back-to-back national championship teams. Square went undrafted; but he has carved out a solid NFL career, having played in 75 games since 2013, including every game the past three seasons.
Which guy should be the second team defensive end?
This poll is closed