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Alabama 2021 Spring Football Preview: Outside Linebackers

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A stacked OLB corps could be even better

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Ohio State vs Alabama Tuscaloosa News-USA TODAY Sports

After the 2019 season, Alabama had to replace two talented, veteran starting outside linebackers, who were both top 100 draft picks, and arguably got better at the position. And the Crimson Tide return most of the production at the position.

The Departed

Ben Davis - Davis never quite managed to garner a significant role. Still, the former 5 star stuck it out in Tuscaloosa for five years and did carve out a role on special teams and as a back-up in his final two years with the Tide. He also provided a veteran presence. Davis got to end his time at Alabama by playing in the national championship against Ohio State and recorded a tackle. After the season, he entered the transfer portal.

Kevin Harris - Harris was a 4 star DE/OLB out of Georgia in the Class of 2019. He never saw the field for Alabama; and, with the writing on the wall, he entered the portal in November. Harris chose to return closer to home, settling on Georgia Tech.

Returning Starters

Christopher Allen - Allen stepped into a full-time starting role in 2020 after getting a trial run as the starter for Terrell Lewis in the Citrus Bowl after the 2019 season. And Allen lived up to his potential this past year. He led the team and the SEC in tackles for loss with 13 while finishing with 6 sacks - good for third on the team and tied for fifth in the SEC. The Alabama coaches named him defensive player of the week six times, and he earned second team All-SEC honors from the conference’s coaches.

Will Anderson, Jr. - The Terminator had probably the most hype around him of any freshman since Minkah Fitzpatrick, and the former 5 star somehow exceeded it. Anderson ended up nabbing the starting spot for the opener, and he immediately showed why. He impacted opposing offenses from the get-go, though it took a little time before it showed up on the stat sheet. After seven games, he had just 2.5 TFL and 0 sacks. In the final six games, he had 8 TFL and 7 sacks. He finished second on the team and third in the SEC in both categories. Anderson was named to the SEC All-Freshman team and second team All-SEC by the Associated Press. He was also named the Freshman of the Year by the FWAA.

Returning Reserves

Jarez Parks (RS sophomore) - Parks is entering his fourth year in the program, but he has played sparingly. He redshirted his first year on campus and then played in five games the following year as a deep back-up. With the all-SEC schedule this year and the influx of talented youngsters, Parks dropped down the depth chart and only played against Kentucky.

King Mwikuta - Mwikuta is another who saw his playing time drop this past year. As a true freshman in 2019, Mwikuta played plenty on special teams and was one of the top reserves at OLB after Christopher Allen. He played in either 10 or 11 games in 2020 (the official website lists both in two different spots), primarily on special teams.

Drew Sanders - Will Anderson wasn’t the only true freshman to make a name for himself last year. Like Anderson, Sanders was a 5 star; and, like Anderson, he earned playing time from the beginning, though to a much lesser degree. Sanders became one of the first OLBs up after the starters, even seeing the field occasionally in non-garbage time. He was also a stud on special teams and was named the special teams player of the week by the coaches on two occasions.

Chris Braswell - Braswell was the third member of the trio of 5 star OLBs in the Class of 2020. He did not see the field; and, with almost all of the contributors returning, playing time could be sparse as well this coming year.

Quandarrius Robinson - Robinson was the non-5 star OLB in last year’s class, coming in as only the #65 overall recruit. Like Braswell, he did not get any playing time in 2020.

Newcomers

Keanu Koht - Koht was one of two early signing period surprises for Alabama. The 4 star DE/OLB flipped from LSU and signed with the Tide - one of two on the day - and he’s already on campus. At 6’4, 215lbs, Koht will likely need some time to bulk up a bit; but he looks to be an elite talent.

Ian Jackson - Jackson was a 4 star out of Prattville, Alabama who committed to the Tide despite growing up an Auburn fan. Jackson reminds me of Christian Harris a bit, as he originally was a defensive back before converting to linebacker. I think the 6’1, 225lb Jackson is more likely to end up at inside linebacker like Harris, but his official bio mentions his rankings as an outside linebacker. So that’s where I’ll list him as of now.

Depth Chart

I don’t exactly have to go out on a limb with this one. The starters are set, so the battles will be for back-ups and potentially situational roles.

Sam: Christopher Allen, King Mwikuta, Jarez Parks

Jack: Will Anderson, Drew Sanders, Chris Braswell

With the depth Alabama has and the need to get down to 85 scholarship players, it would not surprise me if somebody else transferred.