TUSCALOOSA — Alabama linebacker Trey DePriest will miss the Crimson Tide’s season opener due to a “minor NCAA infraction,” Tide coach Nick Saban announced Wednesday.
“He will be available to play next week against Florida Atlantic,” Saban said. “This is a one game deal.”
DePriest was listed as the starter at mike inside linebacker on Alabama’s official depth chart. He finished third on the team last season with 65 tackles. DePriest also had 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception. He was expected to be the leader of the Tide’s defense.
DePriest was limited during much of preseason practice with a knee injury. While injuries are never good, DePriest being sidelined allowed younger players to receive more reps during practice.
“It gave us a real opportunity to be able to prepare if the guy (DePriest) that was the signal caller that called the defense and gets the signals from the front wasn’t there because we needed to train somebody else to do that,” Saban said. “Even though this was not something we anticipated, it was certainly something we were able to prepare for because of his absence because of his injured knee earlier in camp.”
DePriest’s absence leaves an already thin inside linebacker core very inexperienced.
Saban said junior Reggie Ragland and sophomore Reuben Foster would be the starters. It will be the first start for both players. He added that junior Dillon Lee and freshman Shaun Dion Hamilton will be the backups.
“We’ll probably be in nickel or dime in this game probably 70-80 percent or more, so there won’t be a whole lot of regular (3-4 defense),” Saban said.
According to the depth chart, Ragland is listed as the starter at will inside linebacker. Foster is listed as a co-starter at both the will and mike inside linebacker spots.
Linebacker Denzel Devall said Ragland and Foster are more than ready to fill in for DePriest.
“They’re doing fine,” Devall said. “They’re making their calls, making their checks and playing Alabama football. We’re going to be ready.”
Last season, Ragland played in 13 games and made 17 total tackles. Foster played in nine contests and finished with 12 tackles as a true freshman.
Devall said the rest of the defense will be there to support the duo in their new roles.
“We had a whole camp to work together,” Devall said. “We worked on a lot of different situations so we’re prepared and ready.”
Sports Writer Marq Burnett: On Twitter @Marq_Burnett.