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Alabama Crimson Tide 2021 Fall Football Preview: Defensive Line

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Who will be the next Quinnen Williams or Christian Barmore for the Crimson Tide in 2021?

SEC Championship - Alabama v Florida
Tim Smith was as good as advertised in 2020.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Many in the sports media world are lauding the Crimson Tide as potentially one of the best defenses in the country. Most of the attention is aimed at the linebackers and secondary. However, the defensive line has more depth and talent than many folks realize.

They will again be coached by former Tide All-SEC linebacker Freddie Roach now in his second season at the Capstone.

DEPARTED

Not counting Ishmael “The Blitz” Sopsher who peaced out in October (#LifeChoices), the Crimson Tide lost only one D-linemen but WHAT a loss. Christian Barmore led the Crimson Tide in sacks last season with eight and became the second round pick of the Patriots in the 2021 NFL Draft. He also had six QB hurries and forced three fumbles.

RETURNING TOP SIX

Five returning linemen for Bama have started five or more games.

  • Phidarian Mathis (6’4”/312) R-Sr. - As the clear leader of this unit, Phil-don’t-call-me-Phiddy had 31 tackles, including five for loss (-10 yards), 1.5 sacks (-6 yards), three quarterback pressures, three pass breakups, and one forced fumble. Nick Saban must think highly of Mathis as he was one of two Alabama representatives at the 2021 SEC Media Days.
  • DJ Dale (6’3”/300) True-Jr. - Dale burst onto the scene as a true freshman, when he became the surprise starter at nose after earning the spot out of fall camp. After missing the final three games of the 2019 campaign with an injury, he participated in every game of the perfect 2020. He did not make SportsCenter’s Top Ten, but he did a fine job of clogging the middle and taking on blockers so that others could shine. He had 22 tackles, two passes defensed (both against UGA), and recovered a fumble against Arkansas at the Hogs’ 5-yard line that was converted into a TD a play later.
  • LaBryan Ray (6’5”/285) R-Sr. - It seems like forever ago, Ray was a 5-star recruit expected to bust out at Alabama. Though he graduated last December, he still has unfinished business in Tuscaloosa as injuries have plagued his career in crimson and white. The Madison, Alabama native played six games as a frosh - limited by a foot injury - but participated in all 15 games with one start in 2018. Another foot injury at South Carolina knocked him out of 2019 after the third week of the season. Last year, he was limited to seven games with three starts, but made it back for the National Championship Game. Most of his contributions were on pass-rush downs. Ray has slimmed down ten pounds to 285 which should help his quickness. He has made Preseason All-SEC teams in each of the last three years and has made the Outland Trophy Award and Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch lists for this season. It’s now or never, L-Ray.
  • Tim Smith (6’4”/308) T-Soph. - Smith opened some eyes with his inspired tenacious play in 2020. Though he did not make a start, it sure felt like he made a lot of big plays. He is credited with 2.5 TFL, one sack, a quarterback hurry, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. He has slimmed down from 320 to 308. My condolences to opposing quarterbacks. His ceiling is Alpha Centauri.
  • Byron Young (6’3”/292) T-Jr. - Due to injuries to others, Young was thrust into the lineup as a freshman earning five starts. He has proved his worth and continued to see action in the DL rotation. The Mississippi native is one of the few Tide defensive lineman to play in all 26 games over the last two seasons.
  • Justin Eboigbe (6’5”/285) T-Jr. - Eboigbe was another player who got a chance to shine as a freshman in 2019. He played in 10 total games with two starts that year, filling in nicely for injured starters. He too played in every game last season earning four starts. He recorded his first career interception against UGA. The Atlanta product is also starting to sound like a team leader:

“Taking the next step is understanding you are one of 11 no matter who you are. Be one of 11 to the best of your ability, have faith in what you are doing, and knowing the guy beside you is going to do the best to his ability. I feel like holding each other accountable and understand you being one of 11, we’re going to be pretty good.”

OTHER RETURNING

  • Jah-Marien Latham (6’3”/278) T-Soph. - Played in one game in 2020, but he had a really strong A-Day Game in which he recorded four tackles, one sack, and one tackle for loss. You may not think a defensive lineman dropping from 285 pounds to 278 is a good thing, but his quickness at the point of attack was quite evident.
  • Jamil Burroughs (6’3”/312) T-Soph. - Burroughs also dropped some weight to become more athletic. Last season, Burroughs played in six games at around 326 pounds. Now, he is listed at 312 pounds.

GETTING LEFT BEHIND

  • Braylen Ingraham (6’4”/298) R-So. - Ingraham has played in two games in each of his first two seasons at the Capstone. He will provide depth as he develops.
  • Stephon Wynn (6’4”/310) R-Jr. - This fourth year player has seen his playing time diminish from nine games in 2019 to two last year. He has been hampered by injuries and seen younger player lap him on the field.

NEWCOMERS

Lawd, this quartet could probably start for 60-65% of FBS teams.

  • Damon Payne (6’4”/297) Fr. - Some onlookers have compared this 5-star to former Tide star A’Shawn Robinson. However, this Michigan freshman has some catching up to do after enrolling on May 24.
  • Monkell Goodwine (6’4”/291) Fr. - This menace can play inside or outside for the Tide. He has a good shot at making the rotation this year.
  • Tim Keenan (6’2”/335) Fr. - After Evan Neal and Damieon George, he is the heaviest on the team. Likely pegged for nose tackle.
  • Anquin Barnes (6’5”/305) Fr. - Another big body who will provide quality depth.

PREDICTED DEPTH CHART

It seems obvious that the starting three on Saturday in Atlanta will be Mathis-Dale-Ray. But they better watch their backs because there are some hungry bears at their heels.

  • DE: Phidarian Mathis, Byron Young, Jah-Marien Latham, Monkell Goodwine, Braylen Ingraham
  • NG: DJ Dale, Tim Smith, Jamil Burroughs, Tim Keenan, Anquin Barnes
  • DE: LaBryan Ray, Justin Eboigbe, Damon Payne, Stephon Wynn

Poll

Among the first and second year DL, who is the next Quinnen/Barmore?

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    Tim Smith
    (409 votes)
  • 3%
    Jah-MarienLatham
    (19 votes)
  • 17%
    Damon Payne
    (100 votes)
  • 3%
    Monkell Goodwine
    (21 votes)
  • 1%
    Jamil Burroughs
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    Other
    (4 votes)
559 votes total Vote Now