Alabama Football: Defense Has Talent to Spare at LB, Questions in Secondary

Even though the Alabama football program is losing a lot of beef in the NFL Draft, the team returns plenty of talent, especially at linebacker. The secondary remains a work in progress.

The only question Alabama head football coach Nick Saban has at linebacker is, how does he get so many talented guys some playing time? The depth at secondary is the biggest question for the 2017 Alabama Crimson Tide defense

Alabama might have the strongest group of linebackers in the nation. Starters Shaun Dion Hamilton and Rashaan Evans return, along with reserves Keith Holcombe, Christian Miller and Mack Wilson.

Among returning players, Hamilton is the third-leading tackler on the team and top tackler among the linebackers after totaling 64 tackles in 2016. Holcombe, Wilson and Evans all looked outstanding at the A-Day game this year.

Additionally, true freshman Dylan Moses will compete for playing time. Not to be forgotten, the team also has Ben Davis and Anfernee Jennings at the position.

Jennings had 19 tackles as a reserve last season, while Holcombe tallied 24 tackles. Miller earned two sacks in a reserve role. Wilson caught a 1-yard touchdown last season against Kent State and had eight tackles on defense.

The back end of the defense? That’s a different story.

Alabama fans had to be concerned with the play of the secondary in the annual A-Day spring game.

Minkah Fitzpatrick moved during the game from cornerback – where he has practiced all spring – back to free safety. With Deionte Thompson‘s arrest, the team might desperately need Fitzpatrick to return to free safety.

The Crimson Tide does have Hootie Jones and Ronnie Harrison, both of whom are natural strong safeties, but neither have really shown anything outstanding to date.

Starting cornerback Anthony Averett returns and Trevon Digg – who practiced all spring at receiver – was moved to cornerback for the game.

Averett and Diggs are exceptional athletes, both having play received and cornerback in high school. Tony Brown is the top candidate to start at the star position, which is essentially nickel cornerback.

Ultimately, Alabama’s secondary is largely untested and unsettled at the moment. The group’s A-Day performance did nothing to reassure fans either.

With all of the talent at linebacker, Alabama’s defense is filled with sure tacklers and should excel against the run—which has always been the case under head coach Nick Saban. With outstanding coverage linebackers, they shouldn’t give up many easy passes either.

However, with the big question marks in the secondary, the defense might be susceptible to long completions against receivers who can stretch the field (something the SEC is loaded with). Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will try to rectify this with creative blitz packages to make opposing quarterbacks feel the pressure.

Perhaps things will settle in once fall camp is complete, but for now, opposing quarterbacks look to have some big days against what might be the 2017 Achilles heel for the Tide.

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