Between national media having concerns with Alabama’s injuries at linebacker and college football analysts thinking the Crimson Tide slacked off in its win over LSU, people are beginning to feel as though the mishaps will prevent Nick Saban from winning a championship.
First and foremost, let’s all remember this was the same media that took shots at Saban and the Tide after it lost to Ole Miss two years ago.
Everyone heard the hard take on Alabama’s run of dominance being over and Saban’s rant of “six feet buried and gone.”
How did the Tide handle the situation?
By doing what it always does, which is not focusing on things that have nothing to do with its program and channeling all energy into finishing the work.
Upon hearing from others, Alabama would go on to capture its first national title of the College Football Playoff era and 16th overall.
Am I saying the losses of Christian Miller, Terrell Lewis, Shaun Dion Hamilton and Mack Wilson do not mean anything? Of course not. However, if there is a school that could withstand an ungodly amount of injuries and still forge a championship shot, the Tide is that institution.
Even with having a multitude of players hurt – including Rashaan Evans, Anfernee Jennings, Dylan Moses, Da’Shawn Hand and Trevon Diggs – the men of crimson are 9-0 and are No. 2 in the CFP rankings.
So, before becoming thoroughly persuaded to smash the “panic” button right now, yours truly has three reasons to not be worried about linebackers.
1. Leaders are at the position
Rashaan Evans and Keith Holcombe aren’t slouches.
Both guys have been in the system for four years, and whether they have played at either inside or outside linebacker, Evans and Holcombe possess enough understanding to run the show.
Evans, who saw a lot of action last season, has a team-high seven tackles for loss with four sacks through seven games.
He’s turned in 36 total tackles, and when Shaun Dion Hamilton missed the remainder of the postseason with a left knee injury in 2016, Evans stepped in and had 21 stops.
Holcombe, though he has yet to be placed in a pressure situation, is highly confident in his ability to come in during a crucial moment and contribute. Once a four-star prospect in Alabama’s 2014 signing class, he’s been a solid backup to Hamilton in the last two years.
With earning two starts and being a natural headhunter on special teams, Holcombe told the media during his interview period on Tuesday that ‘he is comfortable with the defense.’
“I’ve done it before,” Holcombe said.
“I’ll do whatever the coaches need me to do. And people saying I need to step up my game because SDH is down, but I’m just going to do what I can to help this team out. With Razor going down earlier in the season, it prepared me for this. I know I can play and I’m looking forward to it.”
2. Backups are hungry
Nick Saban is not like most college football head coaches.
He recruits elite talent when times are good, and in rough moments, he turns to those guys in situations where the team needs fresh energy. Never does one desire an opportunity at the expense of a teammate’s health; nevertheless, a person must claim every chance presented.
For players like Dylan Moses and Ben Davis, a window has opened.
Both have dreamed of making clutch plays in a crimson and white uniform, and especially after seeing what Moses was able to do against the Tigers, watching him will be fun moving forward.
To be honest, some guys just crave the shot to a be a star.
The road to national titles start in recruiting, and best believe that Saban and his staff are filing all the ducks to shore off the inside linebacker spot.
Also, keep watch of individuals like Joshua McMillon and freshman Markail Benton.
While McMillon certainly has more time invested in Alabama’s scheme than Benton, one never knows when its time has come.
3. A few injured guys can return
Both Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis entered rehab rather quickly after surgery.
According to multiple reports, there is a chance the Tide can have Miller back by either the Auburn game or Southeastern Conference Championship (should Alabama make it).
Also, Saban revealed the timetable of Mack Wilson’s injury.
Per his statement in Monday’s presser, Wilson is set to be out between four to six weeks – which means he could return by either the SEC title game or College Football Playoff.
This has been the most injury-stricken year for Alabama, but it doesn’t mean the program should be written off from a national championship picture.
If anything, the Crimson Tide knows all too well about handling adversity and has a coach that can take any obstacle to provide motivation.
In having Evans, Holcombe, Anfernee Jennings and Jamey Mosley, Saban has enough leaders in the second level of his defense to carry responsibilities of consistent play and helping others.
On top of what’s been stated, Alabama remains healthy on the defensive line.
Nightmares for offenses like Da’Ron Payne, Raekown Davis, Isaiah Buggs and Da’Shawn Hand among others, will not allow the defense to slack up by any known means. Seeing how it’s still ranked with the best in college football in scoring defense (9.0 ppg), rush defense (76.0 ypg) and total defense (244.0 ypg), fans should not be overly concerned if the head man seems to not be.