Former Alabama outside linebacker Xzavier Dickson peaked at the right time, during his tenure in Tuscaloosa. He had a productive senior year, totaling 42 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks in 2014. His career ended with 91 tackles, 21 stops for loss and 14 sacks.
Dickson’s performance at Alabama, along with his efforts at the NFL combine and Alabama’s pro day got him drafted by the New England Patriots in the seventh round (253rd overall pick).
Ryan Anderson and Rashaan Evans both return in 2015. First-year outside linebackers coach Tosh Lupoi has brought energy and enthusiasm to Alabama’s defense this offseason.
The Crimson Tide totaled 32 sacks in 2014, but Lupoi looks to increase its production. This year’s team is tabbed to have the best front seven nationally on defense, but it must find a pass rush specialist at jack linebacker. The move could come down to Anderson or Evans.
Anderson, a junior, was one of the unsung heroes on defense last season. He earned Defensive Player of the Week honors from Alabama’s coaching staff for his performance against Arkansas.
Anderson recorded three tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery in the team’s 14-13 victory over the Razorbacks. He finished the season with 25 tackles, eight tackles for loss, three sacks, nine quarterbacks hurries and a fumble recovery in 14 games.
The 6-foot-2, 258-pound junior has quick feet and strong hands. He is a capable pass rusher, but is also very instinctive against the run. Anderson will enter his fourth season at Alabama
Alabama fans anticipate having sophomore outside linebacker Rashaan Evans be unleashed upon college football in 2015. Evans, who stands at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, is an explosive athlete on the edge. He excelled on special teams last season, accounting for 12 tackles. Evans saw action in 13 games, and tallied 15 tackles, two tackles for loss, three quarterback hurries and a sack.
Evans continues to absorb the system under defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, and senior inside linebacker Reggie Ragland didn’t shy away from calling Evans a “stud.”
He was a five-star prospect and one of the top outside linebackers in the class of 2014. Alabama plucked Evans out of Auburn’s backyard. He totaled 77 tackles, 43 tackles for loss, 17.5 sacks, five pass breakups, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt in 2013, as a senior at Auburn High School. ESPN listed Evans as the No.4 player in Alabama.
Stephen M. Smith is a staff writer and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine, Pick Six Previews and SB Nation. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.