NEW ORLEANS – The news that Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses’ injury would force him to miss the College Football Playoff was just the latest setback the Alabama linebacking corps has had to deal with this season.
First, it was Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis. Then, in order, there were injuries to Rashaan Evans, Anfernee Jennings, Shaun Dion Hamilton and now Moses. Miller, Lewis and Evans were able to return. But Hamilton, whose loss probably was felt the most, has not returned. And Moses was filling in for Hamilton.
End DeShawn Hand and safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick and Hootie Jones also suffered injuries during the season. Jones will miss Monday’s Sugar Bowl.
The injuries to the Alabama defense have taken their toll; the defense was rebuilding as it was and could ill afford to have this many key injuries.
One positive for Monday: Lewis and Miller are expected to play. Each was injured in the opener and each returned against Auburn, though they weren’t nearly at full strength against the Tigers.
“(Miller and Lewis) both were sort of cleared to play against Auburn, but they weren’t 100 percent because they weren’t able to practice enough to be 100 percent as players,” coach Nick Saban said. “They were OK medically. But I think this time has helped both guys be able to develop confidence that they are OK. They can play. They can go out there and do what they can do.”
Getting Miller and Lewis back to add depth is huge, especially against a team such as Clemson, which relies on quarterback Kelly Bryant to make play with his arm and legs.
“We were pretty broken down. We had a lot of guys that were hurt. A lot of people thought we were too broken down and didn’t have a chance of making it here,” Evans said. “But on the inside, now that we’ve had this break, I feel like it’s the best thing that could have ever happened to us. I’m really excited for this upcoming game, just the fact that we had a lot of guys that were hurt and now are coming back.”
Evans has played almost exclusively inside after all the injuries, an example of what defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt called “an unusual year.”
“We’ve had to move guys around,” Pruitt said. “And it’s probably hurt some of the young guys’ growth and development because you’re going to develop as you play the same position. … The guys have been bought in all year and willing to do and sacrifice to play any position that they needed to.”
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