TideSports College Football Preview
Position Coach: Jeremy Pruitt (second season) Tosh Lupoi (third season)
Returning starters: ILB Rashaan Evans, ILB Shaun Dion Hamilton
Starters lost: OLB Ryan Anderson, ILB Reuben Foster, OLB Tim Williams

Top candidates

OLB Anfernee Jennings will be looked to as the anchor against the run, a role Ryan Anderson filled for two years. If anyone is going to help Rashaan Evans replace a substantial amount of graduated pass rushing power, it will probably be OLB Christian Miller. Many are looking for him to rise to stardom as Evans rises to superstardom. Terrell Lewis, who changed his last name from Hall in the offseason, should provide quality depth. Sophomore ILB Mack Wilson made his biggest impact (literally) on special teams but should combine with Shaun Dion Hamilton and Evans to give Alabama a fierce inside presence.

Newcomer to watch

Dylan Moses has been a familiar name to college football fans since he was an eighth-grade sensation sporting scholarship offers from Nick Saban and Les Miles among others. Now, he’s an Alabama freshman and could crack the talented rotation. He might even have another Baton Rouge freshman – Chris Williams – right next to him.

You need to know

That Alabama isn’t replacing the three departed linebackers from the 2016 team – all now shining in NFL camps – without missing a beat. There is another potential superstar in Evans, who is versatile enough to move outside and rush the passer or stay on the inside as needed. He is also the leading player advocate for a live elephant mascot, endearing him to the pachyderm-loving segment of the Alabama fan base. There is an abundance of young talent at all the friendly-sounding linebacker spots (Sam, Mike, Will and Jack could easily have been the four members of a British Invasion pop band). But no one has the pure physicality of Foster and Anderson, or the edge speed of Williams. At least not yet.


Hamilton’s return from a knee injury that kept him out of Alabama’s 2016 postseason – an absence that is too often overlooked – and the 2017 A-Day game is critical. He has looked solid in August but the real test will come against Florida State. Evans can play either spot on the inside or slide outside. The two most imposing physical prospects on the inside are sophomore Wilson and freshman Moses. As they gain experience, Keith Holcombe provides a steady hand and sophomore Keaton Anderson is dependable. All have the potential to be special teams monsters as well.

Key stat

Alabama sacked the quarterback an average of 3.6 times per game last season (54 in 15 games, easily the best in the SEC.) While Saban has returned to talking about “affecting” quarterbacks more than dropping them, the outside linebackers could still be a significant source of pressure.


“We have several guys returning at outside linebacker that had an opportunity to play last year like Terrell Lewis, Christian Miller and Anfernee Jennings. The inside is the same. They’re all working. That’s why we practice.”
— Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt