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Alabama football: Five defensive linemen that must emerge next season

Alabama defensive tackle Joshua Frazier (No. 69) walking off the field after Tide defeats USC, 52-6 in 2016: Jerome Miron - USA TODAY Sports

With two weeks remaining in the month of June and SEC Media Days schedule in early July, the 2017 college football year is right around the corner. A season opener between Alabama and Florida State will pit teacher (Nick Saban) against student (Jimbo Fisher) and two of the more powerhouse schools in Football Bowl Subdivision for a face-off in Atlanta on Saturday, Sept. 2.

While the Seminoles return a wealth of talent to its defensive line, headlined by Brian Burns, Josh Sweat and Derrick Nnadi, the Crimson Tide lost Jonathan Allen, Dalvin Tomlinson and Dakota Ball to graduation/ National Football League. Coach Saban expects much from Da’Shawn Hand and Da’Ron Payne – seeing how both have played a lot of football; however, the duo will need help up front.

As the Tide continues through summer workouts, yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine breaks down five players that will be counted upon to emerge and give production in the fall.

5. Jamar King, SR

King, a four-star from Detroit, Mich., was one of the first players I interviewed following Alabama’s 24-7 victory over Washington in the College Football Playoff semifinal (Peach Bowl) in Atlanta.

The 6-foot-4, 290-pounder spoke highly of Ryan Anderson and the entire front line.

“Ryan is Ryan,” King said. “He’s a big part of the front seven. He brings energy. He’s the type of guy that gets everything going. He, Tim Williams and everyone else. It’s just amazing to see them play and be a part of it.”

After being a part of success in 2016, the Tide is looking for King to be a major contributor in the upcoming season. A junior college transfer from Mendocino Community College in California, he collected 63 total tackles and nine sacks – seventh in the California Community College Athletics Association’s Pacific 7 Conference during his final season in 2015.

4. Joshua Frazier, SR

He’s shown a flash or two of how good he can potentially be, but Tide fans are ready to see a full maturation and productivity from the Arkansas native. A four-star prospect and No. 160 in the ESPN 300, Joshua Frazier has accounted for nine tackles – including a tackle for loss and a sack through 26 games at Alabama. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, Frazier is second behind Da’Ron Payne when it comes to reps at defensive tackle.

He’s got the size to control two gaps, but Frazier must perfect his hand technique in shedding offensive linemen to create pressure. He collected 100 tackles and 4.5 sacks in two years at Har-ber High School.

3. Raekwon Davis, SOPH

His pad level may be too high for a zero or one technique; nevertheless, Raekwon Davis perfectly fits a 5-technique in a 3-4 scheme as an edge rusher. Before signing in the Crimson Tide’s 2016 recruiting class, the Mississippi native was a unanimous four-star recruit and one of the nation’s top defensive tackle prospects.

He turned in 55 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and two quarterback hurries in his senior year at Meridian High School in 2015. Through seven games last season, Davis tallied four total tackles – including one for loss and a sack versus Mississippi State. His size at 6-foot-7 and 303 pounds is already mind-bottling, but what lies ahead for Davis is continuing to perfect his footwork and fine-tune his pass rush style.

2. Quinnen Williams, RS FR

Prior to being selected by the Washington Redskins in the first round of the NFL Draft, Jonathan Allen told reporters to watch Quinnen Williams become the Tide’s next superstar. After redshirting his freshman year, the Birmingham native is ready to inflict pain upon quarterbacks.

He was one of the top players in the state of Alabama and top defensive linemen nationally, upon signing with Alabama in 2016. A unanimous four-star prospect and No. 36 in the ESPN 300 recruiting database, Williams took notes on a team that won its third straight Southeastern Conference championship and earned a second appearance to the CFP National Championship. With his quickness at 6’4″ and 285 pounds, Williams is crucial at defensive end in rotating behind Da’Shawn Hand, Raekwon Davis, Jamar King and Isaiah Buggs.

1. Isaiah Buggs, JR (JUCO transfer)

Regardless of all the young talent, experience returning and junior college transfers for this 2017 squad, Nick Saban named Isaiah Buggs to the media as a player that can make an immediate impact. Alabama’s been fortunate to have a multitude of JUCO players enroll and provide a solid contribution, including Terrence Cody, Jesse Williams, Quinton Dial, Jarran Reed and D.J. Pettway.

Buggs, a native of Ruston, La., was one of the nation’s top JUCO defensive players.

A five-star and No. 1 JUCO recruit via Rivals and Scout, Buggs was rated at No. 5 on the ESPN JUCO 50 recruiting database. He finished his tenure at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College with 134 total tackles, including 18 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. The 6-foot-5, 292-pounder showcased much quickness in the Tide’s spring game, generating three tackles and a quarterback hurry for the first-team defense. More than likely, Buggs will start at defensive end for Alabama opposite Hand when the season begins in September.

Stephen M. Smith is a managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

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