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Early spring practice positional battles: Who emerges to help Henry To’oto’o at inside linebacker for Alabama?

Jaylen Moody (No. 42) of Alabama jumps over Feleipe Franks of Arkansas
Nelson Chenault - USA TODAY Sports

Spring practice begins next month for Alabama football.

Crimson Tide fans are ready to see their team make a return to the College Football Playoff National Championship stage, but the work starts in March and April. Nick Saban has graduated a lot of experience to the NFL Draft, but the Tide has retooled its deck of players and coaches.

The staff at Touchdown Alabama Magazine is getting everyone prepared for spring football with a new series.

We will be highlighting early spring positions battles and which players will earn starting roles. After a breakdown of the defensive ends, we continue with the defense. We dissect the inside linebacker position for spring ball.

Henry To’oto’o

Henry To’oto’o returns as the leader of Alabama’s defense as a middle linebacker.

He could have pursued the NFL Draft, but he decided to come back to school. To’oto’o had to adjust to the Crimson Tide’s defensive system, but he played his best late in the 2021 season. He finished with a team-high 113 tackles, 8.5 stops for loss, four sacks, two quarterback hurries, two pass breakups, and one forced fumble. As a former standout at the University of Tennessee, To’oto’o has a year under his belt at Alabama. He will be a dynamic playmaker and communicator for the Tide in the coming fall.

To’oto’o needs to become more comfortable with taking on blocks and attacking the ball.

Others to watch at middle LB

-Jaylen Moody

-Deontae Lawson

-Kendrick Blackshire

-Shawn Murphy (freshman)

Jaylen Moody

Jaylen Moody entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal, but he decided to withdraw and return to Alabama.

The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder can play middle and weakside linebacker. He posted 11 tackles and one interception in 2021, but Moody has a wealth of game experience under Saban since 2018. His style fits better in the middle, but Moody will open spring practice as the starter at weakside linebacker. He recorded his first interception in the Crimson Tide’s season opener versus Miami at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Moody’s play on the ball shows his coverage skills and lateral quickness at the position.

Moody dominated spring ball last year, but he did not get a starting role. He has to fend off talented players this time.

Others to watch at weakside LB

-Deontae Lawson

-Demouy Kennedy

-Kendrick Blackshire

-Ian Jackson

-Shawn Murphy (freshman)

Freshman to watch: Shawn Murphy

Shawn Murphy received high marks from legendary linebacker, Dick Butkus.

The five-star won the Butkus Award for 2021 in becoming the best high school linebacker. He recorded 113 tackles, 20 stops for loss, six sacks, and two interceptions in his senior year. Butkus compared Murphy to Nakobe Dean who dominated for the Georgia Bulldogs and is pursuing the NFL Draft. Alabama could have in Murphy what it missed on in Dean in the 2019 class.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder is a playmaker that enrolled early. Crimson Tide fans will take notice of him.

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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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