Alabama DE Raekwon Davis returning to his sophomore form this season
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Not even a bullet in the leg could protect college football from what attacked it in 2017, as sophomore defensive end Raekwon Davis generated chaos for Alabama’s defense.
The native Mississippian abused quarterbacks, stuffed running backs and a recorded an interception off Georgia’s Jake Fromm in the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Game to help the Crimson Tide get a 26-23 win in overtime in Atlanta.
A former five-star in the 2016 recruiting class, Davis finished his sophomore year with 69 tackles (third on team), 10 tackles for loss (second on team) and a team-high 8.5 sacks through 14 games.
He was in position for a massive junior year and a first-round stock in the 2019 NFL Draft; however, his sack totals and overall production dropped last season.
Whether it was frustration with being double-teamed or not executing certain things, Davis mustered just 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in 2018. For the 6-foot-7, 312-pounder, urgency came to start the offseason. He decided to return to school for his senior year and cited “unfinished business” as his reason. The additions of Brian Baker (defensive line) and Sal Sunseri (outside linebackers) to the coaching staff have pushed Davis to be a better leader.
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During his media viewing period on Wednesday, Davis told local reporters that he’s providing his team with more energy every day. While there is more youth and talent up front, some veterans – including LaBryan Ray – have returned to the defensive line.
Per Davis, it is more to leadership than calling out young players for mistakes.
“It’s about taking coaching from someone else too,” Davis said.
The lessons he has taken from Baker stem from having a solid technique.
“I’m just trying to get back to my old self,” Davis said. “To that sophomore Rae, to that sophomore pass-rushing Rae. It’s the little things. I wasn’t doing the little last year.”
He added more muscle to his frame this summer and trained to perfect his get off, footwork, hands and edge-bending abilities. Compared to what his sophomore year was and what last season resulted in, Davis had one simple answer: “It was not me last year.”
He has taken it upon himself to not only affect his teammates more, but to also bet on himself that he will be the best disrupter in college football. It feels weird not having Quinnen Williams, Isaiah Buggs and Johnny Dwight in the locker room, but Davis knows he can do it.
“This is a chance to prove myself to everybody,” Davis said. “I want to prove that I can do it. I can be that leader, be that role model that I was supposed to have been.”
He is surrounded by young competition, but it’s those guys that keep Davis grounded and provide him with energy.
True freshmen DJ Dale, Justin Ebiogbe, Antonio Alfano, Byron Young, Ishmael Sopsher and Braylen Ingraham all make sure Davis is on his game.
When the young guns get tired at practice, it’s Davis that pushes them through.
“It’s been good,” Davis said on working with the younger defensive linemen.
“They just like the learning process. They been looking good out there. Everyone has been following their assignments, crashing the pocket and stopping the run.”
He returns as the oldest guy on the line, but after asking Davis, he said guys on the team feel as though he is still young. The senior looks to capture that feel throughout this year, as he anticipates putting to rest all doubts of his leadership, productivity and his team not being able to sustain a dominate edge.
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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.