No Time To Panic at Inside Linebacker for Alabama Fans
By: Larry Burton
If most schools lost two of their valued middle linebackers before the first fall practice ever started, panic would ensue. But as you saw last season, “Next man up” at Alabama means something different than at most schools. With four and five stars sitting on the bench waiting their turn for playing time, the coaching staff isn’t in panic mode, they’re in prep mode knowing they’ll have to spend more time than they planned with younger players and getting them “coached up” to take the stage and shoulder more load than they thought they may have just one month ago.
Certainly losing one promising player, Van Darius Cowan, to violating team rules, (fighting in a bar), but also losing Terrell Lewis, who really showed out in the first round of the playoffs against Clemson after coming back from a previous injury is a blow to the team’s depth. But before fans panic there a few things you have to remember…
First – Alabama suffered a lot of injuries at linebacker last season too, yet not only played well, but won another national title.
Second – That some of those youngsters who got valuable playing time last season are now more than ever ready to fill in as starters and major contributors again this season.
Third – Terrell Lewis came back early last year and may also come back by late season again this year. Playing in so few games wouldn’t effect his eligibility to play another season under the new rules just passed.
Fourth – You aren’t hurting have Mack “The Smack” Wilson and Dylan Moses back from last season. Both are young, but now have great experience. Plus you have Anfree Jennings who should be recovered from a knee problem coming back. He too had a great game against Clemson in the first round before leaving with an injury. Plus you have one of the nation’s top recruits, Eyabi Anoma, who like Moses last year, will see the field a lot this season. Since he was an early enrollee, he’s already a step ahead in being useful early. He just like Moses again, may get some looks as an inside and outside linebacker. You also have former five star Ben Davis ready to get his name known. There are lots of other options for the Tide to rotate in and out and in this fall’s practices and you may see some traditionally outside linebackers and even defensive ends getting a long look at their value at the inside linebacker spot.
So while there’s no need for panic, there is room for concern. Until Lewis’ injury is healed, the Tide can’t allow for many more players to go down at inside linebacker.
No school has a depth pool as deep as Alabama’s, there isn’t any question about that statement and there is no room for debate. Nick Saban is the undisputed master of recruiting and keeps the Alabama squad more ready than any other team to not say “Next man up!” without some fret in their voice. Kirby Smart once said about now coaching against Alabama that he won’t be glad that somebody (at Alabama) isn’t playing, he’s just concerned about the people that will be playing, because he knows from experience what the bench is like at Alabama.
So in Tuscaloosa once again this season, they’ll play next man up and they may just have the same end result as last year. There’s no need to panic.
Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter
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