Pair of Alabama LBs to rival 2011 national championship squad
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Seven years have passed since fans of Alabama football witnessed two athletic, dominant and instinctive linebackers on the field at the same time. For head coach Nick Saban and former Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart (now at Georgia), having both Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw in Tuscaloosa in 2011 was a dream.
The two four-stars devoured quarterbacks, stuffed running backs and held opposition to an average of 8.2 points per game, which led college football. It was the least amount of points ever surrendered from a Saban coached defense in his tenure, while Hightower and Upshaw finished first and third respectively on the team in tackles.
Upshaw posted 9.5 sacks that year, helping the Tide reach the BCS National Championship Game against LSU at Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Alabama took over New Orleans (La.) as it handled the Tigers, 21-0. Hightower recorded a strip sack of quarterback Jordan Jefferson and defensive tackle Nick Gentry recovered for the Tide.
They are not as physically imposing as Hightower and Upshaw were, however, Lyndell “Mack” Wilson and Dylan Moses possesses their fair share of athleticism, instincts and leadership.
Arriving on campus as five-stars, Wilson and Moses represent the first two highly-talented ‘backers’ to play on the field at the same time for Alabama since 2011.
Wilson, a native of Montgomery, Ala., started his career as a special teams terror but has now transformed himself into a three-down defender. He collected 40 total tackles last season – including 2.5 tackles for loss and four quarterback hurries. Wilson was also credited with two pass breakups and carried a team-high four interceptions. His pick-six off quarterback Kelly Bryant in the College Football Playoff semifinal guided the Tide to a 24-6 win over Clemson.
As for Moses, the Baton Rouge (La.) native was ranked No. 5 on the ESPN 300 recruiting site upon his arrival to the Capstone. He turned in strong performances versus LSU, Mercer and Auburn, with the Bears and Iron Bowl matchup being his best two games. Moses tallied a team-high 11 stops with four for loss and an interception against Mercer at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
He ended up with 30 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one interception through 11 games.
The 6-foot-3, 232-pounder was selected to the All-SEC Freshman Team for his efforts, joining wide receiver Henry Ruggs III (six touchdowns).
Despite both guys working inside during the first week of spring practice, Wilson has shown much promise as an edge rusher. Keeping the duo healthy will be important, but Alabama’s defensive front serves as a definite force with Wilson and Moses.
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.