|TideSports College Football Preview|
Editor’s Note: Dylan Moses tore his ACL on Wednesday, Aug. 28, after this preview was written.
Returning starters: Dylan Moses, Anfernee Jennings
Starters lost: Mack Wilson, Christian Miller
Technically, Terrell Lewis is not a returning starter after missing all of 2018 following knee surgery. However, his recovery appears complete and he is an automatic starter on the outside (as he would be for most teams in America). The other outside linebacker, Anfernee Jennings, dominated in the 2017 CFP semifinal against Clemson but was injured (detect a pattern developing?) and while he was solid in 2018 (50 tackles, 5.5 sacks), he never seemed to quite reach peak form. On the inside, Dylan Moses is back after finishing as the team’s leading tackler in 2018 (86 tackles, 10 for losses) and the junior should be an All-America candidate. Senior Josh McMillon appeared set to start alongside Moses but, as fate would have it, suffered an early August knee injury that is likely a career ended. The position battle to replace McMillon has been back and forth but freshman Christian Harris seems to have edged ahead of sophomore Markail Benton, although no official decision has been reached.
NEWCOMER TO WATCH
Christian Harris, an athletic inside linebacker and, like Moses, a Baton Rouge native, has attracted the most attention in August. There are other freshmen to keep two eyes on — Shane Lee on the inside, King Mwituka and Kevin Harris on the outside.
YOU NEED TO KNOW
No one knows exactly which witch or warlock has put a spell on this position since 2017, but the injuries (and the departure of Eyabi Anoma for personal reasons) has given multiple opportunities to players like Christopher Allen (injured last season), Markail Benton, Jaylen Moody, Ale Kaho and Ben Davis. A production increase from one or two of those semi-experienced linebackers will make a big difference.
The glass is probably more than half full — Moses is a rock, Lewis a monster if healthy with Jennings as a solid complement. Just how full the glass will be depends on the mix-and-match with freshmen and others.
Alabama linebackers had 18 quarterback sacks last season. Compare that to 2016’s total of 28, thanks largely to the edge speed of Rashaan Evans and Tim Williams. The need for speed from the outside was glaring in the Crimson Tide’s loss to Clemson.
“Terrell is ready to go. Terrell is ready to ball. Terrell, he’s gonna do that.”
— UA outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings on Terrell Lewis’ return from knee surgery.