SEC Country is breaking down each Alabama position group from Feb. 29 to March 7 as the Crimson Tide prepare for spring football.
Saturday’s breakdown features Alabama’s 2016 linebackers.
Notable departures: Reggie Ragland
You should already know: Reuben Foster, Tim Williams, Ryan Anderson
Get to know: Shaun Dion Hamilton, Rashaan Evans, Keith Holcombe, Christian Miller, Walker Jones, Adonis Thomas, Mekhi Brown
Analysis: Much like the receiving corps, Alabama’s group of linebackers should be one of the best in the country this season.
Williams and Anderson — the projected starting pass rushers — teamed up to wreak havoc in opposing backfields last season, and their 22.5 combined career sacks might double this year. The pair will be spelled by a combination of Evans, Holcombe, Miller and Brown this spring, with Miller emerging as a team favorite.
“He’s a great pass rusher just like Tim and Ryan,” former linebacker Reggie Ragland told AL.com‘s Michael Casagrande. “They can be really deadly off that edge next year.”
The real star is inside ‘backer Foster, who is expected to fill Ragland’s role as Alabama’s next great linebacker. Draft experts applauded Foster’s decision to stick around in Tuscaloosa one more year, and he appears to be a good bet for first-round status in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Dion Hamilton (27 tackles in 2015) is projected to start opposite Foster, but the job is still up for grabs, with Jones (a junior) and Evans (a redshirt freshman) being the primary competition.
Coach Nick Saban also reeled in 5-star freshmen Ben Davis and Lyndell Wilson this past month.
Key question: Who will win the inside linebacker job opposite Foster? And which of the projected backups at outside pass-rusher — Evans, Holcombe, Miller or Brown — will take a step forward?
Bottom line: A strong defensive line and deep linebacking corps make Alabama’s front seven elite again.