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Alabama 2022 Spring Football Preview: Inside Linebacker should be a team strength

Henry To’o To’o leads a talented group.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Gary Cosby Jr. / USA TODAY NETWORK

Like last season, Alabama enters the 2022 season with a bevy of depth at the linebacker spots, which will likely lead to some attrition before the fall. Still, this should be one of the strongest position groups in the nation.

The Departed

Christian Harris leaves a big hole to fill as a three year starter who really came into his own after a rough freshman campaign that saw him thrown into the fire due to injuries at the position. He recently turned heads at the NFL Combine by running the 40 yard dash in 4.44 seconds and should be off the board by the end of the second round at the latest.

Shane Lee and Jackson Bratton both transferred out after neither played a significant role in 2021.

The Leader

#10 Henry To’o To’o, senior

NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Georgia vs Alabama Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

To’o To’o came in with much fanfare last season after transferring from Tennessee, then immediately injured his elbow in the season opener against Miami. To his credit, he played through the pain, though it appeared to affect his ability to take on blocks and make tackles. Still, as the season progressed To’o To’o developed into the leader of the front seven and started living up to his sideline-to-sideline hype.

Headed into the 2022 season, Henry is the unquestioned field general on that side of the ball. He will need to answer some questions that remain about his ability in pass coverage, but he has already shown the ability to stuff the run and get after the passer. A strong campaign could very easily place him into the first round of the 2023 draft.

The Contenders

#32 Deontae Lawson, sophomore

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game - Miami v Alabama Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

An early enrollee in the 2021 class, the Mobile Christian product immediately flashed some serious ability in the spring game that had Alabama fans drooling over his potential. At 6’2 and 225 lbs. Lawson is the prototypical size for a modern inside linebacker and reportedly has speed similar to that flashed by Harris in Indianapolis. In fact, he moonlighted as both a running back and wide receiver while in high school. He is going to be tough to keep off the field.

#42 Jaylen Moody, redshirt senior

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Lawson was deemed the presumptive starter by many when Moody entered the transfer portal, but he has since changed his mind and stayed in Tuscaloosa... for now. After acquitting himself well in the 2020 playoffs, many wondered why Moody never got a shot last season when To’o To’o was clearly limited, but for whatever reason it never materialized. He has experience and has shown himself capable, but if Lawson nudges ahead as expected in the spring, look for Moody to understandably ship out as a grad transfer.

#37 Demouy Kennedy, junior

NCAA Football: Alabama at Florida Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Kennedy became something of a forgotten man when Lawson burst onto the scene, but he was touted as the next big thing at the position coming out of high school. Kennedy’s athleticism reminds many of NFL star, Alabama great and fellow Theodore, AL product CJ Mosley. Kennedy actually moved to running back late last season after injuries nearly depleted the position, and logged seven carries for 16 yards. He could well be in the mix, but as an upperclassman could also be a transfer risk should Lawson pass him definitively.

#40 Kendrick Blackshire, sophomore

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

Blackshire is a bit of a bigger prospect by today’s standards, weighing in at 233 lbs. He came in last season known for his ripped physique that had him looking like a NFL veteran in high school. He carved out a role on special teams last season and is an outstanding prospect, but it may be difficult for him to crack the rotation in 2022.

#36 Ian Jackson, redshirt freshman

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Jackson came in as a project in 2021 out of Prattville High School, but has plenty of raw potential. Needless to say, it will likely be another year before he has a chance to showcase it considering the talent in front of him.

The newcomer

Shawn Murphy, freshman

Ho, hum. Nick Saban signed the 2022 high school Butkus Award winner because of course he did. Murphy comes in with all the tools and has already added about 10 lbs. of muscle to weigh in at 224 over his 6’2” frame. He is known for his instincts on the field, but this will likely be a redshirt season for him.