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Alabama 2021 Spring Football Preview: Inside Linebackers

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Dylan Moses leaves a void, but there are plenty of good candidates.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Ohio State vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama DC Pete Golding returns pretty good numbers at all three levels of his defense, but he will need to replace some key veteran leadership. This is particularly true at linebacker including sixth-year senior Joshua McMillon. McMillon isn’t listed below because he didn’t play an awful lot last season, but by all accounts he was a key cog on the practice field.

Of course, the elephant in the room for this group is the potential transfer of Tennessee LB Henry To’o To’o, who will likely land in Tuscaloosa and start right away should the SEC waive its intraconference transfer restriction. Henry isn’t here for the spring.

Departed

Dylan Moses

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Ohio State vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Dylan likely wouldn’t call 2020 his best work, but he was the signal caller of a vastly improved Alabama defense. After the season he revealed that he had been playing on a torn meniscus suffered in week three vs. Ole Miss, that required his knee to be drained multiple times throughout the rest of the season and required offseason surgery. He is now off to test the NFL waters.

The New Leader

#8 Christian Harris - Jr.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Ohio State vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Harris came in two years ago as a high school safety, and thanks to a late camp injury to Moses, was forced into action at LB. He showed flashes but was understandably confused at times. While far from perfect, the 2020 season was something of a breakout campaign. Harris has shown solid instincts in the run game and has the wheels to run with most tight ends. His junior year will provide an opportunity to prove that he can be the man in charge as a three-down middle linebacker. A big year could cement first round status in the 2022 draft.

Other Returnees

#32 Jaylen Moody - Sr.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Ohio State vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Whenever Moses or Harris were nicked up or needed a breather last season, it was generally Moody who got the call, and he acquitted himself well. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that the way he flashed in limited playing time is a big reason that Alabama fans are bullish on this year’s defense. He will likely be the starter next to Harris at A Day, and will attempt to ward off some talented competition in fall camp.

#37 Demouy Kennedy - So.

Kennedy is expected to push hard for playing time this season. A top 40 overall prospect from Theodore, home of the Mosley brothers, the 215 lb. Kennedy is fast and athletic, and was lauded in high school for his football IQ. Everything about his profile just oozes “next great Alabama linebacker.” We will need to see it on the field, of course.

#33 Jackson Bratton - So.

Only slightly less heralded than classmate Kennedy, Muscle Shoals product Bratton also has everything you would want in a middle linebacker. A bit bigger at 225, Bratton may well end up starting at Mike in 2022 with Kennedy flanking him at Will. With Harris in the fold, he likely has a tough path to playing time this season.

#35 Shane Lee - Jr.

Lee started with Harris for an entire season in 2019, but when Moses returned to the starting lineup last season it was Harris who got the nod. As a freshman the 240 lb. Lee looked a little big and slow at times, though the instincts were there. Saban indicated recently that Lee dealt with a nagging injury last season and will be in the mix for playing time. Color me skeptical.

Newcomer

#32 Deontae Lawson - Fr.

It will be a huge upset if Lawson sees the field this season with all of the talent in front of him, but he is yet another athletic future star. The 6’2” 217 lb. freshman out of Mobile Christian was the #3 ILB in the 2021 class and enrolled early to get a jump on things. Look for him to make a splash on special teams this season.