Alabama football has hot competition for snaps among outside linebackers
TUSCALOOSA - Despite injuries plaguing the position, Alabama has always found a way to get production from its outside linebackers: in four of the last five seasons, at least one has produced at least 10 tackles for a loss.
Getting the same production this season will be a tricky task.
UA had Anfernee Jennings with 12.5 tackles for a loss and Terrell Lewis with 11.5. Both are now on NFL rosters, leaving an inexperienced but talented position group to pick up the slack.
Players: Redshirt junior Christopher Allen, redshirt senior Ben Davis, redshirt sophomore Jarez Parks, sophomore King Mwikuta, junior Jaylen Moody, freshman Chris Braswell, freshman Drew Sanders, freshman Quandarrius Robinson, freshman Will Anderson Jr.
2019 stat: In three of the last four years, Alabama has had at least one outside linebacker finish in the top 10 in the SEC in tackles for a loss. Last year, both Jennings and Lewis did it.
Storyline: UA coach Nick Saban said freshmen are going to be used at this position, and the degree to which they are used will set the tone for the future of the position’s returners.
“I’m impressed with all the young players that we have. I think all four of those guys have shown some promise in what they can do,” Saban said. “I think a couple of them probably are going to add depth to our team.”
UA’s acquisition of four talents at the position, three of them among the top 50 prospects in the nation and the other a top two prospect in Alabama, showed it sees a need at the position. Allen stepped in for Lewis at times and performed well to be the leader of the group coming into preseason camp; UA defensive coordinator was highly complimentary of Davis, a five-star recruit who has made little impact in his first four seasons in Tuscaloosa.
If the freshmen are to earn rotational roles, it would likely cut into the playing time for Parks, Mwikuta and Moody, who are otherwise poised to have more prominent rotational roles as second-stringers as opposed to third-stringers.
It seemed clear when they signed, and has since been made clear by the coaching staff, that the foursome of freshmen are the future of the outside linebacker position. What remains to be seen is how quickly that future comes to the forefront.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson