clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2023 Alabama Spring Football Preview: Who will step up on the Defensive Line?

Are there difference makers on this year’s roster?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 01 Alabama at Arkansas Photo by Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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.

Key Returnees

#91 Jaheim Oatis - Soph.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOV 12 Alabama at Ole Miss Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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.

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.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOV 12 Alabama at Ole Miss Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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.

CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T - Ohio State v Alabama Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

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.

Returning Depth

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.

The Newcomers

#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.

Roll Tide.