Editor’s note: Coming off its fourth national championship in seven seasons, Alabama returns a ton of talent, and has a great opportunity to repeat as champions in 2016.
Over the next few weeks, SEC Country will take a look at Alabama’s 25 most important players. Obviously, there’ll be coaches and other key members around the program who’ll have a big impact on the team’s success. But this list is strictly for the top 25 players for the Crimson Tide heading into 2016.
14. Da’Shawn Hand
Only at a place like Alabama could a No. 1 recruit come in and not play a major role in his first two seasons. That’s the path Hand took as Alabama had plenty of depth in front of him during his first two years in Tuscaloosa.
As a sophomore last season, Hand made 16 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. Hand is expected to play a bigger role this season with A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed and others moving on.
Hand’s best performance of the year came in the national championship game, where he made 4 tackles (2 for loss).
Hand dealt with back spasms during the spring, and also had a lingering hand injury. Hand’s health will be something to watch as he’s one of four returning defensive linemen with experience, along with Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne and Dalvin Tomlinson.
Like Allen and Tomlinson, Hand is a player who can both rush the passer and hold up against the run, meaning he won’t have to come off the field against up-tempo offenses.
Coming Wednesday: A returning wide receiver