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Jumbo Package: Is it finally time for the Alabama defense, led by Will Anderson, to save the season again?

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Since 2018, offense has defined Alabama. Did last weekend mark a change?

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Alabama Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Playing aggressively with pressures and blitzes with LSU one big play away from an upset seemed to loosen any stress from the Alabama defense. Young players like freshman outside linebacker Dallas Turner was a spark with two sacks while veteran defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis brought juice on the interior.

The Wiser, Louisiana product and most demonstrative member of the Alabama defense didn’t hold back when he appeared to make a game-saving sack/fumble and recovery. It was later overturned by video review but that moment spoke to the personality of a defense that’s not always known for showing outward emotion.

“Of course we’re having fun,” linebacker Christian Harris said. “We’re out there celebrating and I think that helps us a lot. Just taking it and focusing on one play at a time. We had those negative plays that we could have prevented but having fun and focusing on the next play helped us keep going.

Man, how long has it been since the Alabama defense was the unit that saved the game, and not the other way around? Maybe the 2018 game against Mississippi State? Or the 2017 National Championship over Georgia, where they had to hold the Bulldogs back until Tua Tagovailoa could make a comeback?

The Tide defense has caught a lot of flack ever since 2018, and this was possibly their best performances in a high-leverage situation since before the offensive explosion that followed the arrival of Tagovailoa.

Now, can they sustain it? That’s the question after a season of some inconsistent performances.

And they’re going to have to do so if the Tide offense continues to be totally useless against any team that decides to blitz.

Defensive players have been invited to New York as Heisman finalists, though, and the most recent to do so was Ohio State’s Chase Young in 2019. That season, Young recorded 21 tackles for loss, 16.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, three pass breakups and one blocked kick. Young finished fourth in the Heisman voting that year as one of the four finalists.

A former teammate of Young, wide receiver Jameson Williams, sees similarities in the two.

“Oh yeah, I feel like Will has had an outstanding season,” Williams said. “I’ve seen Chase Young. I’ve been at O State, I’ve seen Chase Young. But Will Anderson, oh yeah. He’s for real. I feel like he deserves everything that is being brought to him, Heisman talk, whatever it is. Will, he goes hard. He deserves it. Every day at practice, he’s a leader for the team. He talks to other guys during practice. Everything is well-deserved for Will.

“So if Heisman talk is one of those talks, I feel like he most definitely deserves it.”

The defensive front seven has been the major issue for Alabama in the 2019-2021 seasons, and that seemed to come to a breaking point when they didn’t manage to pressure Zach Calzada a single time in a loss to Texas A&M.

The aftermath of that game was the potentially legendary press conference from Will Anderson, Jr., who challenged all of his teammates to match his intensity. Since then?

57 rushing yards per game, 15 sacks, and 22 tackles for loss in 3 games for the front 7.

Anderson is elevating the play of everyone around him while continuing to be a game-changer on any given play. He’s on pace to beat the production output of Chase Young, the last defensive player to be a Heisman Finalist, and the national competition is much less stiff in 2021 than it was in 2019.

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young has been named a semifinalist for the 2021 Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, the Davey O’Brien Foundation announced on Tuesday.

Young is one of 20 players that were named to this year’s semifinalist list. The Davey O’Brien Award is annually presented to the nation’s top college quarterback and is the oldest national quarterback award. It honors candidates who exemplify Davey O’Brien’s character while exhibiting teamwork, sportsmanship and leadership in both academics and athletics.

In his first year as the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback, Young has thrown for 2,755 yards, 28 touchdowns and three interceptions on 211-of-304 passing (69.4 percent). Through nine games, the sophomore ranks fourth nationally in touchdown passes, sixth in passer rating (173.97) and 10th in passing yards as he has led UA to an 8-1 (5-1 SEC) record.

Nice work for the first year starter! Young has been very, very good this season, even if his 173 passer rating isn’t quite what Alabama fans got used to with Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones the last few years. He’s still got a lot to work on and develop to become the truly elite QB he can be, but he’s definitely gotten a good start.

Alabama cornerback Marcus Banks has entered the transfer portal, he announced Monday evening on Twitter.

“Thank you to all of the coaches, staff, fans, and especially to all my brothers/teammates at The University of Alabama,” Banks tweeted. “With that being said I’ve officially entered my name in the NCCA Transfer portal with 2 years left of eligibility.”

Marcus Banks has been a mainstay as a second team corner the last few years, and was in the thick of things to replace Pat Surtain as a starter this year. However, when the coaching staff elected to put Josh Jobe with a gimpy toe back into the game to replace Jalyn Armour-Davis rather than leaning on Banks, it made things clear where he stood in the pecking order.

While it will be a hit to Alabama’s depth, Banks was unlikely to see much playing time with the Tide in the future, and is likely a good move for a player who’s already gotten three years of training in Alabama’s system.

“He’s one of the most twitchy 300 pounders I have ever seen,” CAI assistant coach Dan Meyer has told 247Sports in the past. “You can use him in multiple spots as a chess piece to create mismatches and take advantage of down and distance. There aren’t a lot of players in the country that can do that. At this point, he’s still learning his craft, but as he progresses, he’s only going to become more dominant. A very unique player.”

Unique is right. Hastings grew up in Ontario where he ate poutine and played basketball as a youngster. He eventually found the game of football as a teenager, which led him to Clearwater Academy International, a small private school on the Sunshine State’s west coast that’s mission is to get foreign students Power 5 scholarships.

If you missed it in all the excitement of picking up a basketball recruit yesterday, Alabama also got a commitment from Isaiah Hastings, a high-ceiling defensive lineman out of Canada. Similar to Christian Barmore a few years ago, Hastings is still fairly new to football, but displays the kind of dominant athleticism with freaky size that could translate into him becoming a true difference maker.

Alabama still sits on top of the 247 recruiting rankings.

Jeremiah Alexander, Thompson

5-star, No. 17 national recruit / No. 1 EDGE per 247Sports Composite

Key stats: Two tackles and one sack

Thompson, playing without their injured starting quarterback, relied on its defense in a 49-10 win over Florence in Class 7A. Alexander generated constant pressure as the Warriors limited Florence to 148 total yards.

Emmanuel Henderson, Geneva County

5-star, No. 28 national recruit / No. 1 RB

Key stats: Rushed for 77 yards on 21 carries

Henderson played in his final high school football game for the Bulldogs in a 18-0 loss to Lanett. He’s expected to play basketball for Geneva County.

Tre’Quon Fegans, Thompson

4-star, No. 90 national recruit / No. 11 CB

Key stats: One redzone interception and one tackle

Fegans is at his best right now, head coach Mark Freeman said. Fegans nabbed his third interception of the year against Florence. He’ll be key in a round two matchup against Oak Mountain.

Antonio Kite, Anniston

4-star, No. 179 national recruit / No. 6 ATH

Key stats: Over 100 yards receiving with a touchdown

Kite had one of the top highlights of the weekend with an 80-yard touchdown in the first half. But ultimately the Bulldogs fell to St. James 28-26.

If you’re interested, there are a couple of in-state recruits still playing in their high school playoffs. Alexander and Fagans are leading the state’s most impressive defensive unit in Thompson High School. They’ve already shut out their opponents five times this season, and allowed 10 or less points in 5 more games. Only Hoover has managed to get 24 points on them.

22. Jahvon Quinerly, Junior, Alabama

Quinerly averaged 12.9 PPG and shot 43% from 3-point range last season for the Tide. Expect him to take on a larger offensive load with the departure of three key players. There isn’t a quicker scoring point guard in college basketball.

This article came out before last night’s game, but Jahvon Quinnerly was tabbed as the nation’s #22 overall player by Fox Sports. Here’s to hoping he lives up that ranking, and a couple of other Tide players join him on the list by the end of the year.

The Alabama soccer team earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, with the field announced Monday. The Crimson Tide will travel to face Clemson on Friday at 3 p.m. CT.

Alabama (10-9-1) clinched a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament after upsetting No. 19 Auburn by a score of 1-0. The Crimson Tide finished with a 10-2 home record, marking the first time in program history that Alabama has won 10 games at home.

Alabama has earned six shutouts, including over ranked opponents Auburn and No. 24 LSU.

Finally, congrats to the UA Soccer team for finally making the NCAA tournament again. They suffered some early losses this season, but turned into an absolute juggernaut at home, going 10 and 2 when in Tuscaloosa (just... ignore the 0-6 in away stadiums part).

Junior All-SEC Midfielder Reyna Reyes has been a stalwart in both phases of the game, winning SEC Offensive Player of the Week and Defensive Player of the Week at different points this seasons. She’s the first Alabama player since 1999 to make the All-SEC team in multiple years.

The Tide will square off against Clemson at 3:00 on Friday, and the Tigers are definitely the favorite here.