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2023 Alabama Crimson Tide Spring Football Preview: Replacing Will Anderson at OLB

It’s never easy to replace a legend, but there is some serious talent here.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Mississippi Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

If there is one position on the field where Alabama has absolutely dominated in the recent recruiting cycles, it’s outside linebacker. In fact, Alabama has signed the top ranked edge prospect according to the 247 composite in each of the past four classes and supplemented each class with another top 4 edge prospect.

It’s a good thing too, since they have to replace a legend.

Will Anderson is the first of the aforementioned four consecutive top recruits at the position, and probably the best player in the current NFL Draft despite the fact that quarterbacks will go ahead of him. Quite simply, he’s the best pass rusher to come out of Tuscaloosa since Derrick Thomas and went somewhat underappreciated thanks to teams doing everything possible to scheme around him. Replacing him is going to be a tall order, but there are some horses here.

While it shouldn’t be an issue in the fall, this group is quite thin for the spring with only five scholarship players participating.

Returning Starters

#15 Dallas Turner - Jr.

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Alabama Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Turner was the top ranked edge prospect in the 2021 recruiting class, and 2023 will be his year to escape from Anderson’s vast shadow and prove himself as a top 10 pick in the next draft. Unfortunately, while he will be one of the most important pieces for this season, he is out for the spring while recovering from an undisclosed surgery. Saban said that it shouldn’t cause him any problems in the future.

#41 Chris Braswell- Sr.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 05 Alabama at LSU Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Braswell came in with Anderson in 2020, as the 2nd ranked edge rusher in the class. It took him a while to see meaningful action in Tuscaloosa after being passed up by Turner, but to his credit he just kept working and carved out a role in year three. Headed into 2023, he is the elder statesman of the OLB group. Braswell will undoubtedly be starting in the spring, but should expect some furious competition for that spot in August.

Returning Depth

#35 Jeremiah Alexander - RS Fr.

NCAA Football: Alabama Spring Game Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Alexander is a product of nearby Thompson of Alabaster, AL who came to Alabama last season as the top ranked edge player in the nation. The 6’2”, 249 pounder played mostly on special teams in 2022, but Alabama fans have been salivating to see what he can do on the field. His high school tape showed an unblockable, explosive freak in the mold of Anderson with a slightly thicker frame. We will get an opportunity to see what Jeremiah can do this season.

#19 Keanu Koht - RS So.

NCAA Football: UL Monroe at Alabama Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Koht arrived in Turner’s class as the 3rd ranked edge prospect in the nation but understandably hasn’t been able to find much playing time with Anderson, Turner and Braswell in the fold for his entire career. Koht is a but undersized at only 232 lb. and will thus most likely be seen in “rabbits” pass rush packages.

#34 Quandarrius Robinson - Sr.

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl-Notre Dame vs Alabama Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The 6’5” and 231 lb. Robinson is a long and lanky pass rusher whose physical traits have reminded many of former Tide standout Terrell Lewis. Robinson has mostly played special teams to this stage in his career, and to be frank it’s difficult to see him emerging as a senior with all of the talent in front of him. He does have a COVID year available to him for 2024 and is likely a prime transfer candidate.

The Newcomer

#49 Qua Russaw

Russaw and high school teammate James Smith made themselves a package deal on the recruiting trail, and every program in the nation wanted them. Russaw is solidly built at 6’2” and 242 lb. The 3rd ranked edge in the 2023 class is very likely to make an impact in future seasons, but for 2023 he may find himself on special teams waiting for some of the dudes listed above to graduate.

Alabama will get top ranked pass rusher Keon Keeley out of Tampa in the fall, but he was unable to enroll in time for spring camp.