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Alabama’s defensive freshmen class stole the show versus Duke

Dale Zanine - USA TODAY Sports

Future recruits take notes. 

It does not matter what age or classification one is, if it is willing, coachable and has strong physical and mental traits, Nick Saban is putting that person on the field. 

In the same manner that the 2017 class showed to rescue a national championship for the University of Alabama, this year’s group of freshmen took over Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday in a dominating performance against Duke.

RELATED: Despite slow start, Alabama cruises past Duke in Atlanta

While the Crimson Tide lost Dylan Moses for the season, Shane Lee took command at middle linebacker and sniffed out every play.  

The four-star from Maryland finished with six tackles – including a huge stop on fourth down in forcing a turnover from the Blue Devils.

Regardless of Duke totaling 107 yards rushing, it took 32 carries on an average of 3.3 yards per rush.

Lee made it difficult for David Cutcliffe’s offense to attack the middle of Alabama’s defense. Along with Lee, Christian Harris turned in six total tackles at weakside linebacker.

The rangy four-star did a nice job of flying to the football. 

“Their linebackers played exceptionally well,” Cutcliffe said of Alabama’s Shane Lee and Christian Harris after the game. “Their defensive front played really well.”

RELATED: Alabama 2020 NFL Draft projections

DJ Dale posted three tackles, and Jordan Battle sealed the game with an interception that had everyone on the sidelines excited.

Saban mentioned both Battle and DeMarcco Hellams would see time in the secondary this season, and this weekend was the moment for Battle. 

Over a quarter – 16 of 62, 26 percent — of Alabama’s tackles came from true freshmen. 

Since punters help set up a defense, Will Reichard was successful too.

The three-star averaged 40 yards per boot on two attempts, while dropping one punt inside Duke’s 20-yard line.

The young guns were instrumental in a 42-3 victory, as the Tide return to Bryant-Denny Stadium next week for its home opener against New Mexico State.  

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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.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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