Of course Ben Davis’s best shot at cracking the starting line-up would come during a pandemic.
Davis, a redshirt senior, came to Tuscaloosa as the highest-ranked member of the Class of 2016. He played sparingly his first three years - one brief appearance in 2017, two brief appearances in 2018 - as he bounced between inside and outside linebacker. In 2019, however, he earned a role on special teams and played in a handful of games on defense as well.
Now, Davis has reportedly been at the front of the line at the other outside linebacker spot opposite Christopher Allen. While it shouldn’t be surprising a player in his fifth year in the program is beginning ahead of the younger players, it is, nonetheless, encouraging.
Alabama lost both starting outside linebackers from 2019 and return very little experience there. In fact, Davis actually has the most career sacks out of all outside linebackers on the roster.
Davis (#1) is standing up on the left side of the defensive line (towards the bottom). He starts with just a straight rush to the outside of the right tackle before stopping and looping inside. The right guard is already too far engaged with the defensive end Christian Barmore (#58), who is doing a good job himself; and Davis has an open path to the quarterback. And Davis crushes him.
Let’s look at it from another angle.
That was Davis’s first and only career sack; and, yes, that is enough to put him at the top of the leaderboard. Allen has half a sack, and no other outside linebacker has one. And yes, that says more about the lack of experience at the position than about Davis; but I don’t care. Sack-leader Ben Davis is a thing.
Davis is by no means guaranteed or even the favorite to start opposite Allen. Sophomore King Mwikuta played in 10 games as a freshman last season. Redshirt sophomore Jarez Parks is now in his third year in the program and played in five games on defense last year.
Alabama also signed an incredible group of outside linebackers in the Class of 2020; and guys like Drew Sanders, Will Anderson, and Chris Braswell - all three enrolled early, though they obviously missed out on spring practice - will push for playing time.
So we’ll see. Maybe Davis is just at the front because of his time in the program. But maybe the former five star has shown something and will hold off the blue chips nipping at his heels.