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Alabama desperately needs an elite difference maker up front on defense

Alabama DL Damon Payne Jr. (#44) at practice for the Crimson Tide in the 2022 season.
Photo comes via SEC Media Portal

Kane Wommack and Christian Robinson know the expectations of the Alabama football program, but both defensive coaches are in their first season with the Crimson Tide.

Freddie Roach, Alabama’s defensive line coach, is in his fifth year and it is a big year for him.

RELATED: Sources: Two freshmen wide receivers for Alabama will shake up the rotation

Tide fans have not seen a difference maker on its defensive line since Christian Barmore in 2020, and it has not seen a player selected in the first round of the NFL Draft off the defensive line since Quinnen Williams in 2019. Alabama has talent and experience up front, but does it have a player or multiple players that strike fear in the hearts of offensive linemen, quarterbacks, and running backs? Roach, Wommack, and Robinson must locate these athletes before the college football season starts this fall.

Alabama has names such as Jah-Marien Latham, Tim Smith, Jehiem Oatis, Tim Kennan III, and Damon Payne Jr. that have playing experience.

It brought LT Overton via the NCAA transfer portal from Texas A&M and signed young guys like James Smith, Jordan Renaud, Edric Hill, Jeremiah Beaman, Isaia Faga, Steve “Bolo” Mboumoua, Keon Keeley (could also play “Wolf” position at outside linebacker), and Hunter Osborne.

Tim Smith, James Smith, Payne and Keeley were five stars out of high school. Oatis, Kennan, Latham, Renaud, Hill, and Beaman all were talented four stars. Faga and Mboumoua were three-star athletes, but both possesses raw power and other tools to disrupt opposing offenses. The Tide has a rotation that Roach needs to trust, and he must keep guys fresh.

Alabama defensive front had so much success from 2015 to 2017 because the players behind Jonathan Allen, A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed, Dalvin Tomlinson, Tim Williams, and Ryan Anderson were not slouches.

Names such as Da’Ron Payne, Da’Shawn Hand, Isaiah Buggs, Raekwon Davis, D.J. Pettway, Christian Miller, Rashaan Evans, Anfernee Jennings, and Terrell Lewis made sure the standard was kept when they entered games.

Will Anderson and Dallas Turner both were taken as first-rounders as outside linebackers, but the Tide needs a fearsome defensive line again.

The talent is on the roster, yet someone needs to emerge as the alpha of the group and command excellence from everyone in the rotation.

A defensive lineman led Alabama for sacks in its 2015, 2017, and 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship seasons.

Allen had 12 sacks in 2015, Davis carried the defense with 8.5 sacks in 2017, and Barmore totaled eight sacks in 2020.

Everything starts up front for Alabama.

It needs to have an aggressive front line on defense to win a championship.

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Stephen M. Smith is the 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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