Consider Mack Wilson and Dylan Moses a package deal. There’s a not better duo out there when it comes to inside linebackers, at least Wilson doesn’t believe there is. So put a bow on that package while at it, an Alabama bow.
“We just have a connection to where I feel like if I’m slacking at something, he’s going to pick me up,” Wilson said. “If he’s slacking on something, I’ll pick him up.
“I just feel we’re the best in the country.”
Both are semifinalists for the Dick Butkus Award, which goes to the nation’s top linebacker. Four Crimson Tide players have won it in the past. Once the list was revealed, Wilson tweeted, “One of us got to bring it home.”
Wilson is a junior. Moses is a sophomore. They both played last season but truly stepped into their starting roles this year after Alabama graduated Rashaan Evans and Shaun Dion Hamilton.
As the Crimson Tide’s second-leading tackler, Moses has 42 total stops. Wilson is two spots below him with 34 total tackles. Together, they lead all linebackers.
The two feed off each other.
“I just think communication-wise – just being at the linebacker position, just being the center-quarterback of the defense and just getting everyone on the same page,” Alabama offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher said. “I think as the defense has grown, so have they.”
Communication was an issue earlier in the season. Wilson stepped up and took the blame for it. So did defensive back Deionte Thompson, as the veteran in the secondary. One helps the front part of the defense, the other handles the back.
“It’s picked up tremendously because not only are we giving the call, but we’re signing it back to each other to make sure we go it,” Thompson said. “That’s one thing coach (Nick) Saban emphasized, ‘When you get a call, give a call.’”
That’s going to be important this weekend, as No. 1 Alabama heads to a notoriously loud Death Valley for its first top-five matchup of the season against No. 3 LSU.
The Tigers have given up 18 sacks and three interceptions. The Crimson Tide leads the SEC with 26 sacks. Alabama is second in interceptions with 12.
While Wilson has just one sack to his name, Moses has 2.5. Moses is also credited with 7.5 tackles for loss, a pass breakup, a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry.
“He’s ready to smash somebody,” Wilson said. “That’s where he’s from (Baton Rouge) so he’s fired up.”
There’s also extra motivation for Wilson, who has pressured a quarterback four times, broken up three passes and made an interception.
“I just remember getting hurt in that game (last year),” he said. “It was kind of heartbreaking to me because I felt like I was fixing to have a good game or whatever. Me going into this game injury-free, I feel like just being the leader of the defense, I’ll be able to make an impact and make sure everybody on my team makes an impact, too.”
Reach Terrin Waack at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.