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Nick Saban, Alabama developing pass rushers for this season

Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports

Part of being a dangerous team in college football is having players that can successfully affect the passing game of an opposing program. 

So many things were missing from Alabama football in 2018; however, the biggest issue happened in the College Football Playoff title game. Trevor Lawrence of Clemson provided a masterful performance at quarterback and it was because he had time to distribute the ball. 

No dirt, blood or even an ounce of sweat (if any at all) was spotted on his jersey, as the true freshman torched the Crimson Tide for 347 passing yards and three touchdowns in a 44-16 win back in January.

While frustration rested on the faces of Alabama’s defensive backfield, it was also without its best edge rusher – Christian Miller – who was injured. 

RELATED: Nick Saban praises true freshman at ILB, despite competition

A quality rotation of pass rushers is what made Alabama special in 2015 and 2016; the years where the team totaled 50+ sacks. The additions of Brian Baker (defensive line) and Sal Sunseri (outside linebackers) to the coaching staff were to assure the Tide’s return to being aggressive. 

Both have transitioned well and though Alabama held some players out of its second preseason scrimmage, Nick Saban said the team has some guys that have the ability to rush. 

“Anfernee Jennings has been a good pass rusher. Terrell Lewis has been a good pass rusher. Raekwon Davis has developed into being a much better inside pass rusher,” Saban said. 

“We want LaBryan Ray to develop as an inside pass rusher. Christopher Allen can rush a little bit off the edge, I think King [Mwikuta] as a freshman has some ability to rush.” 

With names such as Ray, DJ Dale and Stephon Wynn working back from injuries, the Tide has been getting some fresh faces acclimated into the system. Both Mwikuta and Kevin Harris II (true freshman) earned reps on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium and look to improve. 

According to Anfernee Jennings, senior at outside linebacker, he told reporters that Harris plays fast all the time and has a “high motor.” Sunseri has been training both freshmen and at some point this season, maybe one (if not both) shows the capability to contribute to the team. 

Regardless of finishing tied for 10th in college football for sacks (45) last year, Alabama could not drop signal callers to the ground in the postseason. This led to its secondary getting burned and ultimately not bringing home a national title. Saban could see the biggest number for sacks ever in his tenure this fall, but health and focus both stand as the most important factors. 

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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.

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