SEC Country is breaking down each of Alabama’s position groups before the entire 2016 roster reports to campus.
Wednesday, we take a closer look at the Crimson Tide’s defensive, a group that lost A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed and D.J. Pettway to the NFL but will bring back a two-time All-SEC player, among others.
Names you need to know: Jonathan Allen (senior), Da’Ron Payne (sophomore), Da’Shawn Hand (junior), Dalvin Tomlinson (senior), Josh Frazier (junior), Quinnen Williams (freshman), Raekwon Davis (freshman)
The defensive line took perhaps the biggest hit of any Alabama unit besides running back this offseason, with Robinson, Reed and Pettway departing from the Crimson Tide’s elite run-stopping group.
Those expecting a drop-off, however, are going to be disappointed.
Alabama’s run defense led the nation by allowing just 75.7 yards per game during its championship jaunt, and it’s unlikely they’ll decline much while the Tide offense tries to get its groove back.
Allen could’ve easily skipped town and been a high NFL pick, but he decided to return and key the front three for another season. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound lineman showed off a special combination of run-stuffing and pass-rushing ability in 2015, and he is exactly the type of hybrid player Nick Saban’s 3-4 defense requires up front.
Payne was a nice surprise last season, plugging up the middle of the field while getting plenty of playing time in Alabama’s deep rotation. He’ll be expected to shut down opposing guards and centers again in an effort to clog the running game.
As usual, the linebacking corps will rack up most of the sacks and big-play numbers (linemen accounted for just 2.0 of the team’s 14.0 sacks during the A-Day scrimmage, both by sophomore Johnny Dwight), so stopping the run will continue to be the unit’s most pressing duty.
Keep an eye on Williams (6-foot-4) and Davis (6-foot-6), a pair of massive freshman tackles who could both see some action early.
Key question: Will the losses of Robinson, Reed and Pettway reveal a lack of depth on this year’s squad? It’s always a challenge to get six or seven players ready for primetime moments.
Bottom line: Running against Alabama probably won’t be any easier in 2016 than it was last year.