Much like last preseason, Alabama’s defensive line enters the spring with all kinds of high blue-chip talent but in need of someone to step forward and become that singular dominating force that opposing teams have to scheme around. While a few players flashed in 2022, that person never really emerged. Some of the same candidates are still around along with a couple of new faces. To be frank, this is a position group that is longer on quantity than quality in terms of on field results, so expect some attrition here over the summer.
2022 starters Byron Young and DJ Dale are off to chase their NFL dreams after four solid years at The Capstone. Best of luck to them.
#91 Jaheim Oatis - Soph.
If I was betting on a returnee to have a breakout season, Oatis would have to be the pick. Jaheim was able to be disruptive at times as a true freshman, and has been working hard to get into great shape.
Started this journey just a bit over a year ago at 417lbs now 316lbs and I feel amazing !!!!! #RollTide— Jaheim Oatis (@JaheimOatis) February 26, 2023
Alabama lists him at 328 on the official roster, so they may have taken him through a bit of a bulk phase after that massive cut to add some strength. With Dale gone, Oatis should be The Man at nose guard this season. Nick Saban’s defense is always at its best when there is a pocket-pushing force in the middle. Hopefully Jaheim is ready to be that guy this season.
#50 Tim Smith - Sr.
Tim was one of those guys who drew camp buzz before his freshman season, but unfortunately inconsistent play and too many penalties have kept him from earning a role more prominent than “rotational piece.” Is this the year that the 302 lb. former four-star recruit puts it all together? He will need to in order to fend off super-freshman James Smith.
#92 Justin Eboigbe - RS Sr.
Eboigbe showed plenty of potential early last season before neck surgery sidelined him for the remainder of the season. He is being held out of contact for spring practice this season, but assuming a full recovery would be a great candidate to break out in 2023. Since he played only four games last season, Justin can come back as a Super Senior in 2024 if he so desires.
There is plenty of practice experience here, but not a lot in terms of on the field production. Burroughs and Latham are perhaps a bit more accomplished than the others, but there are a lot of recruiting stars in this list that we need to see develop into results on the field. Damon Payne was a consensus five-star recruit and is entering his third season.
#44 Damon Payne - RS So.
#93 Jah-Marien Latham - RS Jr.
#95 Monkell Goodwine - RS So.
#96 Tim Keenan - RS So.
#97 Khurtis Perry - RS Fr.
#98 Jamil Burroughs - RS Jr.
#47 James Smith
James Smith put some unreal explosiveness on tape at Carver High School in Montgomery, and at 296 lb. should be ready to plug in immediately as a 3-4 defensive end. He’s simply one of those dudes who gets off the ball faster than his opponent and wrecks things in the backfield. Per the 247 Composite, Smith is the highest rated interior DL to enroll at Alabama since Da’Ron Payne in 2015, not counting Antonio Alfano who never saw the field in Tuscaloosa before transferring.
#33 Hunter Osborne
#94 Edric Hill
Both Osborne and Hill come to Alabama as four-star prospects, Osborne from nearby Hewitt-Trussville and Hill from Kansas City. Both have solid size as freshmen and will have an opportunity to crack the depth chart, though with Smith in the fold and so many upperclassmen in front of them that may prove challenging for 2023.
Saban has mentioned many times the need to get an interior push in order to free up Alabama’s bevy of talent on the edge. Hopefully this year’s unit will be able to do that while proving stout against the run.