Alabama’s victory over LSU came with a slew of injuries, the most serious of which came at linebacker.
Starting middle linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton suffered a broken patella and will miss the rest of the season; he had fought back from a torn ACL suffered in last season’s SEC championship game and started every game this season. He joins Terrell Lewis and Christian Miller as linebackers who have been lost for the season, although Nick Saban did leave a small crack for a return for Lewis or Miller.
Mack Wilson suffered a foot injury against LSU and will be out 4-6 weeks. That would put a return around a potential playoff run.
While Hamilton’s production will be missed – 40 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks – it’s his leadership as the defensive play-caller that will be missed most.
“He has a ton of experience, a great competitor. He’s tough, probably one of the smarter players I’ve had in my time here in terms of being able to make adjustments, being able to make calls and helping other players play better because of those calls,” Saban said. “He’s a signal-caller, so by the things that he does out there, he really allows other players to play with more confidence because of his knowledge and experience.”
Two players Saban spoke about specifically who will be called on to shoulder some of those leadership responsibilities are Keith Holcombe and Rashaan Evans, the two most experienced linebackers.
Evans, a senior, and Holcombe, a fourth-year junior, have both seen significant time this year. Evans is tied for fifth on the team in tackles with 36, tied for first with seven tackles for loss and is second with four sacks. Holcombe has 30 tackles and two tackles for loss, and will have plenty of opportunities to add to those numbers as Alabama gets ready to face two good rushing offenses in Mississippi State and Auburn in the coming weeks.
True freshman linebacker Dylan Moses has played mostly on the outside so far. But Saban said Moses could play inside to help balance out the numbers at the linebacker unit. Anfernee Jennings will also be a key component to a now-depleted unit.
The Tide could call on sophomores Mekhi Brown and Josh McMillon to help shore up the depth at outside linebacker. Brown has seen time in eight games, with three tackles. McMillon has played in in five games, also recording three tackles.
There’s also true freshman Christopher Allen, who has played in six games and has six tackles and one tackle for loss. He had five tackles against Colorado State, and also forced a fumble against Ole Miss.
While these players don’t have experience, they do have the talent and should be able to provide adequate depth. Perhaps they also can provide a spark to a defense that will need some backups to make plays.
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