TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After almost becoming a liability because of the amount of injuries in 2017, the linebacker group for Alabama football has a chance to be the best unit on the 2018 defense.
If you were keeping count at home, here is a list of guys who missed at least one game: Shaun Dion Hamilton, Rashaan Evans, Mack Wilson, Dylan Moses, Anfernee Jennings, Terrell Lewis and Christian Miller.
For any other team, it would struggle to win a game with that number of injuries to one position group. For Alabama, it became another battle with “adversity” as the team battled through to win its fifth national championship during Nick Saban’s tenure.
Hamilton and Evans are off chasing NFL futures, but the good news for Alabama is that the other five return.
That group, if it remains healthy, has a chance to be one of the more explosive and athletic linebacker units of the Saban era.
Alabama may be replacing a lot of talent in the secondary, but having this group of linebackers who can rush the passer should take some pressure off the back end.
Top returning linebackers for Alabama football
- Mack Wilson: Wilson proved to be a playmaking inside linebacker, finishing 2017 with 40 tackles while managing to play in 12 games despite dealing with a right foot injury. It was his team-high 4 interceptions that impressed the most. Wilson also returned an interception for a touchdown in Alabama’s semifinal matchup with Clemson. If he can stay healthy all year, look for Wilson to be Alabama’s next great inside linebacker.
- Dylan Moses: In his 2 starts, Moses posted double-digit tackle numbers. He was well on his way to becoming a defensive star before a foot injury sidelined him for the playoffs. Moses should lock up the starting spot opposite Wilson this season.
- Anfernee Jennings: Jennings played his best football in Alabama’s semifinal win against Clemson, but a left knee injury late in the contest caused him to miss the National Championship Game. Jennings is big enough to set the edge against the run but also showed he is a good pass rusher when given the opportunity.
- Terrell Lewis: Lewis remains one of the biggest question marks on Alabama’s defense. He has all the makings of an elite pass rusher, but a right elbow injury in the season opener against Florida State slowed his development. Lewis needs to become more technically sound this offseason, but if Alabama turns him loose in 2018, he could put up big sack numbers.
- Christian Miller: Miller should be one of the veteran leaders for the defense and the team. He is the type of player you want representing your program while also being an elite football player. He has a chance to be one of the team’s top pass rushers in 2018.