This is the seventh of a seven-part series looking ahead to the start of Alabama’s spring football practice. We conclude with a breakdown of the linebackers.
The team returns all of its talent at outside linebacker but the inside backers will be tested a little bit. Shaun Dion Hamilton, the defense’s emotional heartbeat, and Rashaan Evans both leave for the NFL after their eligibility. The inside linebackers will also have a new position coach this season in Pete Golding.
The team’s core of outside linebackers all return in Terrell Lewis, Christian Miller, Anfernee Jennings and Jamey Mosley. Jennings and Mosley played extensively in 2017 while Lewis and Miller were both injured in the season’s first game only to return at the end of the season and into the postseason. Jennings suffered an injury in the Sugar Bowl against Clemson and he will be out of the spring. Lewis is a physical mismatch player with the athleticism to make plays and the length to create space between himself an an offensive tackle. Miller has added strength to his game and could be a consistent pass rusher/run stopper. Jennings is a superior run stopper and he showed in the Sugar Bowl he can make plays in the backfield too. Mosley gives the unit depth. He earned invaluable experience last season while Miller and Lewis were injured.
With Evans and Hamilton gone, Mack Wilson is suddenly the most experienced inside linebacker on the team. It is not yet known if Keith Holcombe will be available this spring as he’s currently playing on the Crimson Tide’s baseball team. Dylan Moses showed his promise as a freshman last season, and his growth is crucial to the unit this season. If Holcombe is not available this spring, it will be critical to watch the growth and chemistry of Wilson and Moses.
There are plenty of alphas at outside linebackers, but the inside linebackers will need someone to step up. Wilson played enough last season, but has he commanded the respect of his teammates. Moses is an uber-talented player who could easily put things together. This spring is big for him. As for the outside linebacking group, Lewis and Jennings could make for superb bookends. Tosh Lupoi has elevated to the defensive coordinator but he is still coaching the outside backers. That continuity is key for a staff that saw massive turnover in the offseason.