It wasn’t a linebacker or a safety that led Alabama in tackles against Texas A&M. It wasn’t even one of Alabama’s All-SEC players.
It was defensive end Isaiah Buggs, a junior college transfer making his fifth start for the Crimson Tide. He posted a career-high 10 tackles against the Aggies, including a team-high six solo stops.
“I think Isaiah has gotten better and better every week,” coach Nick Saban said. “He certainly probably played his best game in the last game. He’s a very instinctive player. He’s strong. He’s got athletic ability to finish on the quarterback.”
The junior college transfer now has 22 tackles on the season, tied with Raekwon Davis for second among Alabama’s defensive linemen. Davis had a big game against Texas A&M as well, tying his career high with eight tackles and posting a sack and a fumble recovery.
“I think those guys played really good,” linebacker Rashaan Evans said. “They stepped up to the plate and that’s exactly what we needed them to do. We just sorely missed Da’Shawn, and those guys have been playing lights out since he has been hurt. So, I expect those guys to keep playing just as hard as they and just as good as they did from now on.”
Alabama has three defensive linemen with 20 or more tackles so far this season; defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne is second on the team with 29 stops.
Both Davis and Buggs are likely to continue to see plenty of playing time with defensive end Da’Shawn Hand missing time with a sprained knee. Coaches will continue to spread playing time around in hopes of having more players ready to go by the time Hand returns.
“I think one of the things that we’ve really worked hard — and this has been a little bit of an issue and it was working well for us until we lost Da’Shawn Hand — is how we rotate the front guys to keep them fresh,” Saban said. “Because when he gets a little bit tired, it affects (Buggs) some as a player, which is not all his fault. I mean, we need to keep guys in the game that are fresh. He’s getting better at it, but I also think we need to help him a little bit by making sure that we’re rotating enough that he can stay fresh.”