Who will provide the pass rush for Alabama football in 2020?
This story originally published Aug. 10, 2020.
Among the many benefits of having senior starters at outside linebacker was a consistent threat of perimeter pass rush. Anfernee Jennings and Terrell Lewis led Alabama’s 2019 pass rush to 32 sacks, which was far from elite (tied for 43rd nationally, sixth in the SEC) but more than enough with a steady secondary behind it.
Four of the five starters in the secondary have since departed, all of them finding their way to NFL rosters via the draft or undrafted free agent deals. A pass rush could ease the burden as UA finds the answers in its secondary, but the players responsible for 18 of those 32 sacks are no longer on the team.
How UA pressures opposing passers will be among its biggest problems to solve, if it is going to return to the nationally elite defensively: in each of the last four seasons, three of the top five defenses in yards per play allowed also appeared in the top 15 in sacks.
The next man up would be Christopher Allen, the redshirt junior who never got a start but played starter snaps in Lewis’ absence a few times in 2019. If a returner is to join Allen, the primary candidates are unproven senior Ben Davis and sophomore Jarez Parks, the second-team outside linebackers last season.
But there is a reason UA signed four top 100 prospects that could fit the mold of pass-rushing positions. Three of the four are five stars and top 25 prospects — Will Anderson, Chris Braswell and Drew Sanders — in addition to Quandarrius Robinson, the No. 2 prospect in the state of Alabama according to the 247 Sports Composite.
UA going as heavy as it did with perimeter pass rushers was not an accident; UA coach Nick Saban said it was a priority for the recruiting class. Thus, the Crimson Tide felt a need to address the pass rush with its freshman class. It’s possible some of those freshmen fix that problem as early as 2020.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson