The term reload was thrown around a little Thursday night.
It wasn’t said in arrogance. It wasn’t a reminder to the rest of college football that even though, yes, Alabama lost Jonathan Allen and Dalvin Tomlinson, that there are other capable defensive linemen on the Crimson Tide roster.
It was said matter of factly. No arrogance. No braggadocio. It was the truth.
Answering one of several questions about the outlook of the 2017 Crimson Tide defensive line, defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne deadpanned, “We reload every year.”
The names aren’t as household as the Allens and Tomlinsons that came before them, but there is talent, some of it yet un-molded, with which to work.
A few of those names – Isaiah Buggs, Quinnen Williams, Raekwon Davis and LaBryan Ray – are young or new-to-the-team players. Buggs transferred to UA from junior college, Williams redshirted in 2016, Davis played sparingly and Ray is a true freshman.
Others like Johnny Dwight have been around a while.
Still, all will have a chance to make a mark on this year’s unit.
“Nothing really different, just new faces,” left guard Ross Pierschbacher said. “All those guys are talented. They’ve done a really good job this offseason taking new roles. We’ve still got some veterans on there so they know what to expect. It’s just more of building depth at that defensive line position and having the young guys come along.
“There’s no lack of talent there for sure.”
Payne, though not through seniority, is the old man of the group. He’s played meaningful football for two seasons, and he’ll start at defensive tackle this season. This season could see him become a three-down lineman, too.
“That’s what it’s looking like,” he said.
Payne knows what his place is this season, knows what will be asked of him.
“I feel like I have a big role on the defensive line, me being an experienced guy.,” Payne said. “Those guys look at me as a leader. I try to do my best so I can bring out the best in them.”
One thing is for certain with Payne. His strength. He recently bench pressed 550 pounds.
Da’Shawn Hand has a chance to assert himself, and given that he won’t face a suspension if he does what head coach Nick Saban has ordered in the wake of his recent DUI arrest, he’ll get that chance beginning with Florida State in the season opener.
What ultimately decides how good the defensive line will or won’t be will be in its depth. Can those unproven players be counted u[on to play winning football?
“I think there are obviously some talented players there that haven’t played a lot,” Saban said. “Those guys are going to have to develop consistency in performance.
“One of the goals we had coming out of spring practice, we wanted to make some improvement in consistency up front. I think the players have the capability of doing it. We have a lot of new faces there. This camp is going to be real critical for how those guys develop and the consistency that they play with.”
Coaches are fond of saying it’s not the 1-22 that defines a team. What that means is that a team is often determined by how well and how many of the players behind the starters contribute.
From that end, Payne has no concerns.
“We reload every year,” he said. “Coach Saban keeps a good group of guys around us, and all of them are ready to go.”