Alabama has done it again: re-loaded its defensive line in hopes of having a successful future. In the past, Alabama has recruited its defensive line class well, but with minimal success during the season, especially in affecting the quarterback and in sacks. With Adrian Hubbard, Ed Stinson, and Jeoffrey Pagan taking their dreams to the NFL, a huge void has been left to fill on the Crimson Tide’s defensive line.
Up to the task, Alabama signed six defensive line players, hailing from four different states: Josh Frazier (6’3”, 330 lbs. from Har-Ber High School in Springdale, Arkansas) , Da’Shawn Hand (6’4”, 260 lbs. from Woodbridge High School in Woodbridge, Virginia), D.J. Pettway (6’3”, 265 lbs. from Pensacola Catholic High School in Pensacola, Florida), Johnny Dwight (6’3”, 295 lbs. from Wilcox County High School in Rochelle, Georgia), O.J. Smith (6’2”, 315 lbs. from Airline High School in Bossier, Louisiana), and Jarran Reed (6’4”, 315 lbs. from East Mississippi Community College, who is currently on campus participating in spring practice and playing extremely well).
Focusing on the three defensive line recruits who are most likely to make an impact during the 2014 season, we will consider the talents of recruits Josh Frazier, Da’Shawn Hand, and D.J. Pettway. One of the first things that jumps out about defensive tackle Josh Frazier is his sheer size. Frazier is every bit of 6’3”, has very good length, has long arms, and moves extraordinarily well for his size.
Frazier gets a real good push up front and hits opponents in the back field. To get into the backfield and affect the quarterback, Frazier likes to use a quick swivel move. The best player in the state of Arkansas in 2014, Frazier has an unusual sense of presence and seems to affect the offensive line every time the ball is snapped. Though he needs some good coaching to help him work on his pass rushing skills, Frazier is already fairly proficient at stuffing the hole and stopping the run.
Because Nick Saban has landed so many #1 recruiting classes in the country, it is hard to believe that he has never signed the #1 player in the country. However, in 2014, Saban got his man: Da’Shawn Hand. When you are ranked the #1 prospect in the entire country, the expectations can be overwhelming, but Hand has dealt with those expectations exceedingly well.
A violent, ferocious tackler who comes off the line like a madman, either with a sheer bull rush or a speed move to the inside or the outside, Hand simply mauls whoever has the ball. A player who runs well from side line to side line, Hand’s an unending motor who never stops going after the ball. Though he can play a number of positions, from defensive end to defensive tackle, Hand will likely find his home at the JACK linebacker spot.
Lastly, the Crimson Tide has D.J. Pettway back, after having spent this last season at East Mississippi Community College. With Pettway playing one monstrous football season with 11 ½ sacks, his team won the Junior College National Championship. An excellent pass rusher, Pettway closes in on the quarterback and then takes him down.
Though Pettway has decent lateral speed, he has exceptional vertical speed. Look for D.J. Pettway to excel in playing for the Crimson Tide, especially on third down situations. Nick Saban is not in the habit of taking players back who have had to leave his program, but D.J. Pettway made his grades, behaved himself, and had a sensational season at the EMCC, earning his place back on the roster of the Crimson Tide.
This is the second article in a series on early enrollees from the class of 2014 who could have an impact on Alabama’s football team in the fall.