Alabama’s defense will undergo a major makeover next season.
Linebackers Shaun Dion Hamilton and Rashaan Evans, defensive backs Anthony Averett, Levi Wallace, Tony Brown, Hootie Jones and defensive lineman Joshua Frazier are seniors.
Underclassmen Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison and Da’Ron Payne probably will turn pro. Anfernee Jennings might go, too. And defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is leaving to try to turn Tennessee around.
So, who will emerge as Alabama’s breakout defensive star in 2018? Here are the top five candidates. The Tide needs multiple impact players to remain one of the nation’s top defenses.
LB Dylan Moses: Alabama has always built its defense around the linebackers. Moses has the look of the next great Alabama linebacker. He has size and speed, and has shown flashes of electric ability. He’s out with a foot injury right now.
DL Raekwon Davis: He’s second on the team in tackles with 59 total stops; he leads with 6.5 sacks, but has just two quarterback hurries. Davis (pictured above) has the size (6 feet 7, 306 pounds) and ability to take his game to another level. Will he? Alabama sure needs him to do so.
OLB Anfernee Jennings: He has battled through injuries and Jennings leads the Tide in forced fumbles with two. At 6 feet 3 and 262 pounds, Jennings is roughly the same size of Ryan Anderson (6-2, 253). Jennings doesn’t need to have the same alpha temperament of Anderson to impact games. Wonder how he’d play 10 pounds lighter?
LB Mack Wilson: He is one of Alabama’s most gifted athletes and was slowed in the Iron Bowl with a foot injury. He’s been playing specialty roles, but come next season, Wilson needs to become a three-down linebacker. Wilson and Moses should start next season and become one of the nation’s best linebacker tandems.
CB Trevon Diggs: The offense-to-defense move hasn’t panned out for Diggs. Considering all the potential personnel losses in the secondary someone better emerge as a playmaker back there. Maybe it will be Deionte Thompson, but Diggs was supposed to be that guy.
(Duane Rankin is an award-winning columnist/videographer for the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser whose work can also be found in USA TODAY. You can follow him on Twitter @DuaneRankin)
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