Alabama suffered extensive turnover on the offensive side of the ball, but fortunately all defensive assistant coaches will return along with eight starters. Christian Barmore, Dylan Moses and Patrick Surtain II certainly won’t be easy to replace, but the Tide fortunately has all kinds of talent waiting in the wings.
DE: LaBryan Ray - RS Jr.
NT: Phil Mathis - Sr./D.J. Dale - So./Tim Smith - Fr.
DE: Justin Eboigbe - So./Byron Young - So.
The six listed above all have significant game experience, and they will likely get the lion’s share of the snaps. Mathis and Smith are capable of moving out to end against heavier run teams, and Ray or Young can man the middle in a rabbits package. Jah-Marien Latham, Jamil Burroughs, and Stephon Wynn provide additional depth, and five-star freshman Damon Payne will likely make some noise when he gets here in the summer. This should be a very strong group, particularly if Ray can finally stay healthy.
Jack: Will Anderson - Fr.
Mike: Jaylen Moody - Jr.
Will: Christian Harris - So.
Sam: Chris Allen - RS Jr.
Jack: Drew Sanders - Fr./King Mwuikuta - So.
Mike: Demouy Kennedy - Fr.
Will: Ale Kaho - Jr.
Sam: Chris Braswell - Fr.
Look for Harris to play something of a Rashaan Evans role this year, playing “Will” in base but staying in to play “Mack” in the nickel and dime sets as Moody exits. He will be the clear leader of this unit. Moody played well in limited action last season, but he will be pushed by Kennedy and Kaho. Thankfully, there shouldn’t be much opportunity for freshmen at inside linebacker this year, but expect Kendrick Blackshire to turn some heads. Shane Lee, Quandarrius Robinson and Jackson Bratton are still in the mix there, too. Nobody is beating out Will Anderson, but expect five-star Dallas Turner to push for a role as a situational rusher in some capacity. Pete Golding has a bevy of NFL capable edge guys at his disposal.
S: Jordan Battle - So.
S: Demarco Hellams - So./Daniel Wright, RS Jr.
CB: Josh Jobe - Jr.
CB : Ronald Williams - Jr./Brian Branch - Fr.
Star: Malachi Moore - Fr./Brian Branch - Fr.
I am fairly certain that the top six DBs will come from those seven names, though how they are arranged outside of Battle and Jobe is anyone’s guess. Moore played quite well at Star last season, and as a smaller and quicker DB he matches up well with slot receivers. Branch looked solid in limited action last season, and many thought Williams would be the third CB before an arm injury cost him most of the season. Returnees Marcus Banks, Kristian Story, Brandon Turnage, and Jalyn Armour-Davis will try and crack the depth chart along with five-star early enrollee Ga’Quincy McKinstry. Like most positions on the Alabama roster, there is talent for days and it’s just a matter of finding the best combination among many good options.
We are living in an offensive era where even the best defenses will fall victim to the elite passing games. Still, this is probably the deepest returning defense in the country with plenty of talent at all three levels. As the offense finds its way early in the season, a few extra stops will be required of them.