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Alabama’s defensive front to re-establish production from 2016 season

Greg M. Cooper - USA TODAY Sports

The secondary may be young, but Alabama will return monsters in its defensive front seven that should make up for the inexperience of the back five. Even with leadership in the secondary during the 2016 season, it will still the front line of the Crimson Tide that intimidated opponents. 

In a group headlined by Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster, Ryan Anderson and Tim Williams, Alabama racked up 54 sacks, 118 tackles for loss and 80 quarterback hurries. Nick Saban’s “Make His Ass Quit” mentality rattled offenses, as the Tide returned five of eight fumbles for touchdowns and recorded six scores off interceptions (16). While that defense was inspired by the program’s efforts in 2011, 2009 and 1992, this year’s group looks to live up to the 2016 unit. 

Hiring a defensive line guru like Craig Kuligowski was pivotal for Nick Saban, especially after watching him place Aldon Smith, Sheldon Richardson, Michael Sam, Kony Ealy, Shane Ray, Markus Golden, Harold Brantley and Charles Harris in the National Football League in his time at the University of Missouri. For someone who unarguably has the best Twitter handle — @LetsMeetAtTheQB – Kuligowski enhanced Miami’s defensive front in the last two years. 

Following his efforts in getting the Hurricanes to 81 combined sacks in 2016 and 2017, Kuligowski inherits a bunch littered with four and five-star talent. Despite former defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt pushing the defense to 40 sacks, it took blitzing defensive backs on the edge to get it done. 

The returns of Raekwon Davis, Quinnen Williams, Isaiah Buggs, LaBryan Ray, Anfernee Jennings, Terrell Lewis and Christian Miller mean the Tide should be able to drop quarterbacks with rushing four guys. If one adds in the athleticism of Dylan Moses and Mack Wilson at inside linebacker, then Alabama’s secondary will be ok through the first few weeks of the 2018 season. 

Davis led the team in sacks (8.5) and finished second in tackles for loss (10). 

Although Jennings’ play versus Clemson in the Sugar Bowl led to Da’Ron Payne’s interception, he along with Lewis and Miller did not reach their full potential due to injuries. Having everyone back healthy and hungry bodes well for Saban as the Tide anticipates running the table this fall. 

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 @CoachingMSmith.

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