The University of Alabama’s linebackers curse continues. The most recent chapter is a more forceful gut punch than most of the others.
“It’s certainly a character check for our team,” UA football coach Nick Saban said.
That’s how Saban described the loss of linebacker Dylan Moses, after confirming the junior suffered a knee injury in Tuesday’s practice. Moses was supposed to be Alabama’s starting middle linebacker; now he will likely miss the entire 2019 season.
Moses was last year’s leading tackler, finishing the season with 84, and cracked the team’s top five with 10 tackles for a loss.
Saban described the injury the same way he described linebacker Joshua McMillon’s injury from earlier in preseason camp: as one that requires surgery and will keep them out for, “an indefinite amount of time.”
Looking beyond McMillon, it’s not the first time UA has lost a prominent linebacker on the practice field, but Saban defended his practice standards.
“I guess I’m always the guy that has to make the decision of whether we practice or whether we don’t practice,” Saban said. “If we practice, we have a chance to be good. If we don’t practice, I don’t see how we can get any execution. There’s risk-reward in everything you do.”
Moses and McMillon were set to start alongside each other, a junior and senior tandem; now, Alabama could be turning to two freshmen, Shane Lee and Christian Harris, at those positions. Harris was listed as the starter at Will on the depth chart Monday and Lee listed as Moses’ backup. They were leading linebacker drills in Wednesday’s practice viewing period.
“Christian Harris has had an outstanding fall camp and has been running with the starting unit, and Shane Lee is the backup Mike, and he’s the guy who will have the opportunity to play now,” Saban said. “We’re pleased with what those guys can do and it’s going to be something our coaches, myself included, all try to support the guys and help put them in the best position to have success.”
The reinforcements are far from experienced: sophomores Jaylen Moody and Ale Kaho are listed behind Harris, and sophomore Markail Benton is behind Lee.
The news comes less than 24 hours after reports of suspensions for Saturday’s game against Duke, which UA had no comment on nor any confirmation of details. Reports stated running backs Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr. – the top two backs on the depth chart – would be suspended for the first half of the game; later reports added wide receiver DeVonta Smith and outside linebacker Terrell Lewis could miss some of the game.
Saban said on the teleconference he will not comment on the reported disciplinary measures.
“I don’t feel it necessary,” he said.
In any event, relative to the suspensions, Alabama is projected to start a freshman at nose guard (D.J. Dale) and possibly two at linebacker, but the standard will not be relaxed for them. Saban said the Mike linebacker will still be the signal-caller of the defense, even with the freshman Lee potentially manning it, and he has confidence they can do the job.
“Fortunately for the guys we have as backup linebackers, they have been good students of the game,” Saban said. “They’ve really tried to prepare themselves the right way.”
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or email@example.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson