Alabama football feels like it can count on backup Jaylen Moody again if needed vs Florida

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

On Arkansas’ penultimate drive against Alabama, ultimately thwarted by an interception, the Razorbacks faced a second-and-2. As they had most of the game, they attempted to go up-tempo into a quick handoff.

Alabama linebacker Jaylen Moody, in position, aggressively tracked to the line of scrimmage, taking on and beating the block of wide receiver Mike Woods.

Moody stopped the play for no gain. It was his seventh tackle of the day, matching the total of his entire season before the trip to Fayetteville.

For his first two seasons and almost his entire third at UA, Moody was a little-used reserve linebacker, primarily on special teams units but not necessarily in productive roles, producing 15 tackles. But after a shoulder injury to Christian Harris, Moody showed he is UA’s top second-string inside linebacker by producing seven tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery against the Razorbacks.

“I think one of the most difficult things is when you’re a backup player you have to prepare for the game as if you’re going to play, not knowing if you’ll get the opportunity to play,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “So it speaks a lot to a player’s maturity to be able to do that 10 games into the season and then just like that you’re in there and called on to do your job. I think maturity has a lot to do with that.

"I know we still have some young players on our team that we’re trying to get them to understand that concept that just because they don’t think they’re going to play doesn’t mean they don’t need to get ready to play because they may be one snap away from playing and they need to be able to go out there and execute.”

Alabama linebacker Jaylen Moody (42) celebrates at Arkansas Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020. [Photo by Kent Gidley, University of Alabama]

It is not known if UA will have to rely on Moody for the SEC Championship Game against Florida. Saban said there is “a chance” Harris plays Saturday, dependent on how his shoulder progresses through the week.

If UA has to rely on Moody once more, his performance Saturday gives it reason for optimism.

“He did a really nice job in the game last week, and I think he's gotten more and more confidence as the game wore on as he got a feel for the game and what they were doing,” Saban said. “I was really pleased with his production. His effort has always been great and played very well, did a nice job of filling in when Christian got hurt really the first defensive play of the game.”

Harris’ return would be vital for UA’s defense. Despite missing effectively all of the Arkansas game, Harris still leads the team in tackles and is tied for second in quarterback hurries and fourth in sacks.

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If Harris can't play and Moody is once again the pick to replace him, he will be making good on the developmental prospect he was out of Conway, South Carolina, as a recruit.

In being the one to replace Harris, Moody, the No. 48 inside linebacker and No. 23 South Carolinian prospect in the class of 2018, is playing over the No. 7 inside linebacker in the same class (Ale Kaho) and the No. 5 inside linebacker in the class of 2019 (Shane Lee).

“They’re always ready for their name to be called upon, and we expect them to keep rolling,” Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II said. “We expect him to do more things like that in the future.”

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson