This is the fifth of a seven-part series looking ahead to the start of Alabama’s spring football practice. We continue with a breakdown of the defensive line.
The Alabama defensive line was again stout in 2017, no real surprise given the year-in, year-out dominance of the group. The unit led the nation in rushing defense in both yards per game (94.71) and yards per carry (2.72). The group wasn’t as dominant a pass-rush group as the two previous defensive lines, but the defense made it work by getting pressure from defensive backs and linebackers to make up for it. In that regard, the most effective pass rusher on the defensive line returns for 2018.
Davis is more than just a large man. At 6-foot-7, 308 pounds, Davis is an imposing figure. He’s also turned himself into a good pass rusher. He led the team with 8.5 sacks and was second on the team with 10 tackles for loss. He returns the spring as the clear leader of the defensive line. Isaiah Buggs is also back for his senior season after coming in as a junior college transfer in 2017. Buggs totaled 51 total tackles and four tackles for loss. He’ll be one of the leaders to lock down a starting position at defensive end. LaBryan Ray played in six games (an injury curtailed a portion of his season) and gained valuable experience. Quinnen Williams is a redshirt sophomore that has earned positive reviews from his teammates including former defensive end Da’Shawn Hand. Phidarian Mathis is a redshirt freshman and Stephon Wynn is a true freshman who enrolled early as part of the 2018 recruiting class. Don’t count out Johnny Dwight who showed flashes of being a productive player in 2017.
This defensive line has potential with a good mix of verbenas (Davis, Buggs and Dwight) along with young talent (Ray, Williams, Mathis). The pass rush of this group could be upgraded over last season, especially if Davis continues to progress at the rate he has through his first two seasons. He has the potential to be one of the best defensive linemen in the conference this season. Ray and Williams and their development will be key to this unit’s potential.