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Ohio State was the lone team that consistently made a mockery of Alabama’s defensive line last season. Running back Ezekiel Elliot totaled 230 yards with two touchdowns on 20 carries, and the Buckeyes accounted for 537 yards offensively in its 45-38 win in the 2015 Sugar Bowl.

Alabama football head coach Nick Saban wants this year’s team to pride itself on discipline, fundamentals and physicality. It returns talent and experience on its defensive front, despite losing Xzavier Dickson and Brandon Ivory to the National Football League.

The three-headed monster on the Crimson Tide’s defensive line consists of a senior and two juniors, Jarran Reed, A’Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen.

Reed, 6-foot-4, 313 pounds, decided to return to Alabama for his senior season, despite being given a second-round grade after a solid performance last year. He led all defensive linemen in tackles with 55, and totaled 6.5 tackles for loss, a sack and five pass breakups.

Robinson, 6-foot-4, 312 pounds, enters his junior season this fall.

He’s been selected as a preseason first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC, according to college football writer Phil Steele. Robinson’s versatility allows him to play nose guard, defensive tackle and defensive end with ease. He put in 49 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries, three pass breakups, a forced fumble and a blocked kick in 2014.

Allen, 6-foot-3, 272 pounds, is the smallest of the three, yet he is a dynamic pass rusher.

He finished second on the team in tackles for loss last season (11.5), and totaled 5.5 sacks. Allen’s recorded 49 career tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and six sacks in 27 games.

Reed, Robinson and Allen are the leaders, but Alabama has some blue-collar players on its defensive line that also poses a threat to opposition. Dalvin Tomlinson, D.J. Pettway and Darren Lake all will be a part of the Crimson Tide’s rotation on the front line.

Tomlinson, 6-foot-3, 294 pounds, is two years removed from a knee injury in 2013.

He is a solid run stuffer that has developed into potent pass rusher. Tomlinson uses his hands well, and displays exceptional lower body strength. He tallied 22 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two quarterback hurries in 14 games last season. He has 26 career tackles.

Pettway, 6-foot-2, 270 pounds, is explosive on the edge as a defensive end.

He knows all too well about the opportunities that come with playing at Alabama. Pettway was a member of two national championship teams (2011, 2012), prior to being dismissed from the program due to off-field issues. He returned in 2014, and provided a spark in all 14 games.

Pettway collected 23 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, five quarterback hurries and three pass breakups. He has 31 career tackles, seven tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, six quarterback hurries and three pass breakups in 27 games at Alabama.

Lake, 6-foot-3, 315 pounds, could be huge for Alabama as a backup nose tackle.

He missed the remainder of spring practice in 2014 because of a pectoral injury, but Lake returned in time for the team’s summer program and fall practice. He chimed in with five tackles in eight games, however, Lake is focused and looks to have a bigger impact this fall.

Sophomores Da’Shawn Hand and Joshua Frazier are young, but both players have a year of experience in Saban’s system. Hand played in nine games last season, totaling seven tackles, two tackles for loss and two sacks. Frazier put in a tackle and a sack in six games.

Alabama also returns Denzel Devall and Tim Williams. Both guys are listed as linebackers on the roster, yet neither of the two have a problem with playing on the defensive line.

The Crimson Tide allowed an average of 88.6 rushing yards per game for much of last season. Ohio State torched it for 281 yards, but Alabama looks for vengeance in 2015.

Phil Steele has Alabama finishing second nationally in rush defense, behind Wisconsin and fifth in total defense.

Defensive backs coach Mel Tucker will look to improve Alabama’s secondary, but its defensive line has been tabbed to be the best nationally in 2015. Will the defensive front hold its own?


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 on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.

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Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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