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Which second-year defensive players for Alabama will be impactful in the fall?

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Alabama football has several junior and seniors to be excited about, but Kalen DeBoer will look at a lot of second-year players — true sophomores and redshirt freshmen — to create an impact on this team.

RELATED: Which second-year offensive players for Alabama will be impactful in the fall?

After breaking down offensive players, we now have a list of second-year defensive players that can make an impact on this team in the upcoming fall. Two defensive linemen, three outside linebackers, and two defensive backs are on the list.

Keon Keeley, DL/LB

Keon Keeley is expected to be a force for Alabama’s defensive front in the fall.

The Tampa (Fla.) native has the versatility to be a defensive end or outside linebacker.

He can rush opposing quarterbacks standing up or he can drop a hand in the dirt and explode off the snap of the ball. The coaching staff wants him to put it together in the fall, but the former five-star is more than capable as a redshirt freshman. 

James Smith, DL

James Smith was a bully on the field at Carver High School in Montgomery, Ala.

He was a powerful five-star defensive lineman.

Smith had an explosive spring, displaying his quick twitched abilities to offset offenses. The 6-foot-3, 296-pounder has the capability to be Alabama’s first show stopper on the defensive line since Quinnen Williams.

Yhonzae Pierre, LB

Kane Wommack, Alabama’s defensive coordinator, sees Yhonzae Pierre as someone with a unique skill set.

As the cousin of former Tide standout, Courtney Upshaw, Pierre could dominate at the “Wolf” position as a stand up edge rusher.

He carries a similar physical make-up to Keeley, and the Tide needs to rotate him in.

Qua Russaw, LB

Qua Russaw was the other half of the bully tandem at Carver High School in Montgomery, Ala.

He dominated as a linebacker with James Smith; however, Russaw really had a good spring at Alabama.

The former five-star performed well in scrimmages — especially the second one — before the spring game. He possesses the ability to stop the run, harass opposing quarterbacks, and strike fear in the heart of opposition on the field.

Jordan Renaud, DL

Jordan Renaud played high school football in Florida and Texas.

The native Floridian finished his high school career at Tyler (Texas) Legacy High School.

Renaud was a four-star recruit in the 2023 recruiting class, and he’s gotten better. Damon Payne Jr., a former five-star, told reporters in the spring that he’s so proud of Renaud’s growth. The 6-foot-4, 261-pounder can jump into the rotation and create havoc for the Crimson Tide in the fall.

Jahlil Hurley, CB

Jahlil Hurley is in a battle for one of two starting cornerback spots.

He is the lone scholarship holdover at cornerback from the 2023 class.

Hurley, a former five-star, arrived from Florence (Ala.) High School as a marquee defender. He has to fend off DaShawn Jones (transfer), Kameron Howard (transfer), and several freshmen — including Zabien Brown — for a starting opportunity. 

Brayson Hubbard, DB

Brayson Hubbard is a hard-hitting defensive back from Mississippi.

He showed his stuff in the Crimson Tide’s spring game.

Alabama fans want to see more of him separating wide receivers from the football. The departures of Caleb Downs, Jake Pope, Peyton Woodyard, and Tony Mitchell opens a door for Hubbard to show what he can do. He is prepared to shine for the Tide as a second-year defender.

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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 15 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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