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Names to emerge for Alabama at inside linebacker moving forward

Adam Hagy - USA TODAY Sports

With Mack Wilson (foot) sharing a photo to social media on his surgery going well and Shaun Dion Hamilton hurting the same knee he injured last season, both inside linebackers are set to miss the remainder of the year. 

Not having Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis was already bad enough, but in losing two experienced players on the inside sets the Crimson Tide back four backers. Hamilton, who registered three tackles against LSU before getting hurt, was having a strong senior year. 

He’s second on the team in tackles (40) and has 5.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, two quarterback pressures and two pass breakups. Hamilton was one of 15 semifinalists named to the Dick Butkus Award list – joining teammate and junior linebacker Rashaan Evans. 

Despite not seeing Wilson in the medical tent, the sophomore suffered a foot injury during Alabama’s 24-10 victory over the Tigers. Prior to his mishap, he shared the team lead in interceptions with three and recorded 21 total tackles with three quarterback hurries. 

Good news came last week at Saban’s “Hey Coach” show as the Tide could have Miller and Lewis back for either Auburn or Georgia (pending if Alabama clinches SEC West); however, the concern for now is finding which players will be called upon to emerge inside moving forward. 

Keith Holcombe, RS Junior 

He was signed in Alabama’s 2014 recruiting class as a hard-nosed player, and after starting a couple of games this season, the Tide will return to looking at Keith Holcombe. 

Holcombe, a native of Tuscaloosa and former four-star recruit, is the backup to Hamilton in Alabama’s regular, nickel and dime formations. He may not be as quick, nevertheless, Holcombe’s ability to dissect plays, follow the ball and make tackles is all that’s needed. 

Currently, Holcombe has 30 tackles – including two for loss and a sack. 

Rashaan Evans, Senior 

Rashaan Evans was the beneficiary of Hamilton’s anterior cruciate ligament issue last year, as 21 of 53 tackles came with the Montgomery (Ala.) native out during postseason action. 

He was missing for matchups versus Fresno State and Colorado State, but in his return Alabama’s pass rush started to re-establish itself. Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt witnessed his group generate 25 sacks upon Evans’ return, with six happening in the win over LSU. 

To pair with his speed on the edge, the 6-foot-3 specimen possesses instincts in dissecting run plays while having the hands to be strong in coverage. Evans has juggled responsibilities at inside and outside backer for one and a half years, but these next few games are critical. 

He stands with 36 tackles, seven tackles for loss (team-high), four sacks and five quarterback hurries through seven regular season contests. 

Joshua McMillon, Sophomore 

Once a scout team player, Joshua McMillon is starting to gain more field time. 

He has amassed three tackles in six games, but the Memphis (Tenn.) native was a marquee signee for the Tide’s 2015 class at inside linebacker. Regardless of not turning in at least one stop against the Tigers, McMillon will only get better at his position with an increase of game reps. 

Dylan Moses, Freshman 

LSU fans could only be upset with its coaching staff after watching Baton Rouge native Dylan Moses account for 1.5 sacks and 1.5 tackles for loss. He brings explosion as an edge rusher, but was recruited as one of the nation’s top inside linebacker prospects. Coming from IMG Academy, Moses chimed in with 116 total tackles, eight tackles for loss and two sacks as a senior in 2016. 

Garnering attention at No. 5 in the ESPN 300 network, the unanimous five-star athlete has prime time talent written on him. Head coach Nick Saban has played a number of freshmen all season on both sides of the ball, but in this case, he might need for Moses to do more on defense.  

Ben Davis, RS Freshman 

It’s time for him to iron out all details of Saban’s system. 

Ben Davis was as heralded as they come in the 2015 recruiting cycle, earning recognition as the nation’s top inside linebacker via ESPN, Rivals, Scout and 247Sports recruiting services. 

A five-star prospect, he was listed at No. 24 on the ESPN 300 and comes from a lineage of beloved Crimson Tide standouts. Davis’ father, Wayne Davis, still holds the school record for most career tackles (327) and would love to see his son blaze a path in crimson glory. 

He posted 105 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions, during his senior season at Gordo (Ala.) High School in 2015. Both he and Mack Wilson came in the same signing class, and while Wilson played right away, Davis chose to redshirt. With his brother now out, Davis must stand. 

Stephen M. Smith is the 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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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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