SEC Country is breaking down each Alabama position group from Feb. 29 to March 7 as the Crimson Tide prepare for spring football.
Friday’s breakdown features Alabama’s 2016 defensive line.
Notable departures: Jarran Reed, A’Shawn Robinson, D.J. Pettway
You should already know: Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne
Get to know: Dalvin Tomlinson, Josh Frazier, Da’Shawn Hand, Quinnen Williams
Analysis: If Allen had not decided to return for his senior season, this unit would be much more suspect. But the two-time All-SEC player’s presence will provide a big help along the three-man front.
Losing three NFL draft picks is tough, but — as usual — the Crimson Tide have enough talent to make people forget about Reed, Robinson and Pettway by September.
Alabama’s 3-4 defense does not require its down linemen to rush the passer consistently. Their job is to plug holes in the running game and free up outside rushers on passing downs. That makes Tomlinson (294 pounds), Frazier (315) and Hand (273) all nice fits for the scheme, with Tomlinson — a senior with 60 career tackles — having a leg up on the other two.
Williams is a wild card. The 265-pound true freshman could find his way into the rotation with a strong spring. He got a head start in practice as an early enrollee this winter, and his pure talent might make him the best player in this group when we look back in four years.
Key question: How deep will the defensive line rotation go this season? Last year’s depth was key for late-game energy.
Bottom line: There’s so much physical strength amongst this group that we should not see much drop off from last year’s elite run defense.