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Alabama needs a greater pass rush from its defensive line in 2020

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The 2019 defensive line recorded the fewest sacks of the Saban-era

Vrbo Citrus Bowl - Michigan v Alabama Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

7.5

That’s the number of sacks the Alabama defensive line recorded in 2019. It’s the fewest of the Saban-era. In fact, in each of the previous four seasons, the Tide had at least one defensive lineman who had more than 7.5 sacks by himself.

2018: Isaiah Buggs (9.5), Quinnen Williams (8)

2017: Raekwon Davis (8.5)

2016: Jonathan Allen (10.5)

2015: Jonathan Allen (12)

Christian Barmore led the line with 2 sacks; Justin Eboigbe had 1.5. No other defensive lineman had more than one.

There are some good reasons for low production. Only one starter returned from 2018 - Raekwon Davis, who only recorded half a sack. There were high hopes for LaBryan Ray, but a foot injury sidelined him for the year after just three games.

With Ray gone, the staff was forced to lean on two true freshmen - Justin Eboigbe and Byron Young - earlier than they were hoping. As mentioned above, Eboigbe had 1.5 sacks; and Young had 1 sack. D.J. Dale (1 sack), another true freshman, had won the battle at nose tackle and started 10 games there before an injury kept him out for the final three contests.

All three are talented players and Dale earned the starting job for a reason, but it’s still a tall task for a true freshman to come in and start racking up sacks right away.

Christian Barmore, relegated to back-up/rotational duty, flashed when he was on the field.

In addition to the 2 sacks, he notched 6 tackles for loss, good for fifth on the team. He had 5 QB hurries, tied for third on the team. Barmore was disruptive when he was out there.

But Barmore needed to play more consistently and do what he was tasked to do. Saban had this to say about Barmore early in the 2019 season:

“The challenge for us has been to get him to do the things that he needs to do relative to the rest of the players on defense,” Saban said. “You can’t have guys that if they’re supposed to slant to the right, slant to the left. That’s when the ball goes out of the gate. And he’s learning that that’s a real critical part of what he needs to do to take the next step as a player, and we certainly need for him to do that. And we’re encouraged by the steps that he’s made to do that.”

Like with others mentioned, however, there was the youth factor; Barmore was just a redshirt freshman.

The plus side to all this is that numerous young players all got a bunch of playing experience they otherwise wouldn’t have. That should pay dividends for the 2020 season (assuming there is one). And with the inexperience at outside linebacker this year, a productive defensive line sure would be nice.