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UA players see DL Justin Eboigbe, DJ Dale as guys that can help the team

Cedric Mason - Touchdown Alabama Magazine

He filled in admirably for LaBryan Ray through the first couple weeks of fall practice, and now the true freshman will be called upon again to give a quality effort on defense. 

Ray, a junior, did not finish last week’s matchup against South Carolina. 

He was bothered by a foot injury and per Nick Saban, it is the same foot he had surgery on – prior to the start of fall camp. He said the former five-star will be ‘out for this game’ against Southern Mississippi at 11:30 a.m. inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. 

“We are doing some testing to see what the situation is with his foot, but it is undetermined right now as to how long he may be out,” Saban said of Ray. 

Rumors and reports sparked on Monday, stating that Ray’s injury could potentially be a season-ending one. Should this be the case, the Crimson Tide would lose its third veteran on defense to a medical mishap – joining inside linebackers Dylan Moses (knee) and Joshua McMillon (knee). 

Raekwon Davis, senior defensive end, is having fun again for the Tide. 

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The 6-foot-7, 312-pounder totaled four tackles and one quarterback hurry in a win over South Carolina and has 16 total tackles on the season. He was one of three student-athletes listed for media interviews and though he was disturbed from his nap, he was happy to take questions. 

Davis has grown fond of playing opposite Ray; however, the lone true senior on Alabama’s defensive line also has strong confidence in Justin Eboigbe. A four-star from Georgia, he was one of six talented linemen signed in the 2019 recruiting class – despite having DJ Dale and Antonio Alfano get more attention than him on a national scale.

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 294 pounds, Davis refers to Eboigbe as a ‘fast, twitchy guy’ that catches on very quickly. 

“He reads plays really easy,” Davis said of the freshman.  

“He is good at his technique. He’s a really special guy.” 

Eboigbe showed his edge-bending abilities against the Gamecocks late in the fourth quarter, as he applied pressure to Ryan Hilinski (freshman quarterback). Although he chased Hilinski out the pocket, Ale Kaho was not in the right spot at weakside linebacker and it allowed for Kyle Markway at tight end to come across the middle, catch the pass and move pass Kaho for a score. 

Eboigbe has big shoes to fill, but he’s playing next to Dale.  

The 6-foot-3, 308-pounder has one of his 10 sacks thus far and tallies eight tackles – including 1.5 tackles for loss. A four-star from Pinson, Ala., Dale has been effective collapsing the pocket from inside and getting into the face of quarterbacks. Regardless of his age, every Alabama player and coach on staff is consistent with the statement of Dale doesn’t play like a rookie. 

“As a young guy, you don’t see many young guys coming in with their technique like that,” Davis said of Dale. “He’s playing like he’s been in this league for a while, but he’s straight out of high school. You don’t see that a lot. That is not normal.” 

The Gamecocks found ways to challenge Alabama with tempo, short passes and inside runs, which forced the defense to be on the field for 86 plays. A better job of having balance is ideal for its offense, but a game like this was needed for the Tide on defense. It gives the younger players a chance to study the tape, make improvements and work to be better from it.  

Davis did not like the idea of Saban cancelling practice on Monday, but he’ll return to action Tuesday afternoon to help Dale and Eboigbe get prepared for Southern Mississippi.

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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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