There is still plenty of time to brush up on the roster — not the depth chart, because how can there be a depth chart for Alabama football in July if there is never a depth chart for Alabama football regardless of the month?
Once again, there seems to be a hex, or a revolving door, or some sort of unexplained attrition among the linebackers.
In 2017, it was Shaun Dion Hamilton, Christian Miller, Terrell Lewis, Dylan Moses (who missed the postseason with a foot injury) and Anfernee Jennings. It started in Game One in 2017, when both Miller (torn biceps) and Lewis (elbow ligament) went down. They both missed most, but not all, of the season. Hamilton was lost for the season in the LSU game. Rashaan Evans played most of the season with a groin injury and told reporters at season’s end he was “never really 100 percent,” although he played well enough to be a first-round NFL Draft selection by the Tennessee Titans. Mack Wilson had a cracked bone in his foot that caused him significant pain during the season.
With Lewis out indefinitely — perhaps for the full season, depending on the extent of ligament damage — that leaves Alabama with four familiar linebacker names: Moses and Wilson on the inside, Miller and Jennings, dominant against Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals, then injured (knee) late in the game and out for the Georgia game and the entire spring — on the outside.
The rest of the corps, which means all the depth, won’t exactly be a guess — Jamey Mosley played a good bit last year during the weekly triage, and others are familiar names through the recruiting process, or limited playing time, or both. (Keith Holcombe seems to have cast his lot with baseball, although minds can change.)
Markail Benton and Ben Davis are familiar names from their high-visibility recruitments but have played sparingly. Josh McMillon has played a bit more. Chris Allen had some experience. Vandarius Cowan had some experience but “had” is the operative word as he has been dismissed from the team.
There are freshmen — Jarez Parks, Eyaba Anoma, Cameron Latu and inside linebacker Jalyn Moody, a late but prudent addition to the signing class. Nick Saban has shown no reluctance to playing freshmen in time of necessity. He has shown pretty substantial reluctance to putting up with media opinions on how freshmen, some with spring practice experience and some without even that, are going to perform. If there is a silver lining, it’s that Alabama has an entire month of August practices before deciding who is ready and who is not.
Given all the understandable excitement about Alabama’s offensive potential in 2018, there’s a school of thought that says the Crimson Tide just needs to slap a little duct tape and a few bungee cords on the defense and it will hold well enough. But it’s hard to imagine a Saban team that simply is content with outscoring every opponent. The defense matters. There is already inexperience in the secondary to be addressed and, if nothing else, the loss of Lewis raises the level of that inexperience closer to the line of scrimmage. The defensive front isn’t the deep, battle-tested unit of the past few years either.
No one is pushing the panic button. Alabama can sustain a few direct hits and still be the SEC favorite. But it seems that a maximum number of injuries must exist at some point — and July is awfully early to have to consider those limits.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.