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Alabama Football 2022 Fall Preview: Will the Defensive Line be Good or Great?

This group is deep and experienced, but can they be dominant?

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NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl Classic-Cincinnati at Alabama Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Back in the spring, I wrote that the 2022 defensive line was looking for difference makers. To be sure, there are plenty of “good enough” players here with significant game experience, it’s just that none of them have developed into a superstar. Tim Smith has flashed serious potential at times but struggles with consistency. DJ Dale has come along and will be a key contributor along with Byron Young and Justin Eboigbe.

All of those guys were highly touted and have had fine careers, but to date none have managed to follow in the footsteps of guys like Quinnen Williams and Christian Barmore, who blossomed into elite playmakers. Last year Phidarian Mathis became The Man on the defensive line and earned himself a second round paycheck from the Washington Commanders. Can any of the above make that leap this year? Jamil Burroughs had a strong spring and good things have been said about him this fall, and Jah-Marien Latham has reportedly come along. Can one of them step up into the limelight?

Among the freshmen Jaheim Oatis has generated the most buzz in camp, including this intel from Aaron Suttles.

“Believe it or not, I think Jaheim (Oatis) has got a lot more wiggle than you guys think he’s got,” Pete Golding said. “So he’s a guy internally that if you leave one guy on him, good luck.”

Golding spoke of Oatis when asked about creating defensive line pressure. He also mentioned Burroughs, DJ Dale (who didn’t participate in the scrimmage), Byron Young and Jah-Marien Latham. That’s just a few names, but Oatis spent time with the first-team defense in the first scrimmage. That’s a significant thing to watch.

One source told The Athletic: “We can’t move Oatis.” Meaning, even when double-teamed, Oatis held his ground. That’s a good thing for the prospects of the Alabama run defense.

Oatis’ weight loss was well publicized after he announced to the world that he had dropped 74 pounds since arriving on campus yet still weighs in at over 340 lb. If he is ready and able to be a competent space eater and pocket pusher in the middle, the rest of the guys will benefit.

Golding has also hinted that there may be packages featuring senior OLB Chris Braswell on the field with Will Anderson and Dallas Turner. In those instances, Braswell is likely to put his hand in the dirt. In any case, this is one way to create some additional explosiveness in the pass rush.

“We have a lot of guys who would normally be five-techniques in a 4-2 system that when you get to third down, you bump them inside to the three-techniques and get those guys one on one. I think it doesn’t matter. On third down, if you’re going to rush four guys, who are your four best pass rushers? I don’t give a shit if you call him outside linebackers or D-line or inside linebackers, let’s get the best four guys to rush and put them where you need to put them, and that’s what we’re going to have to do.”

The thought of all three of those guys on the field will keep defensive coordinators up at night. Of course, you have to stop the run on early downs to get into those passing situations.

How this group develops will determine whether that happens.


Who is your pick to break out on the DL this year?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    DJ Dale
    (64 votes)
  • 10%
    Byron Young
    (59 votes)
  • 5%
    Justin Eboigbe
    (30 votes)
  • 28%
    Tim Smith
    (156 votes)
  • 2%
    Jah-Marien Latham
    (13 votes)
  • 7%
    Jamil Burroughs
    (42 votes)
  • 33%
    Jaheim Oatis
    (186 votes)
550 votes total Vote Now