TUSCALOOSA — While Alabama runs a base 3-4 defense, the Crimson Tide spends the majority of the time in a nickel package to combat spread offenses.
With so much depth along the defensive line, expect the Tide to go seven or eight deep at this position, and that’s before you include freshman who could seriously contribute.
This unit has the potential to be the best of Nick Saban’s tenure at Alabama. The addition of defensive line coach Bo Davis, who coached at Alabama from the 2007 to 2010 season, should produce a more aggressive front that attacks opponents instead of always reading, then reacting.
DE — Jarran Reed (6-foot-4, 310 pounds, junior), Jonathan Allen (6-foot-3, 272 pounds, sophomore) —OR— D.J. Pettway (6-foot-2, 255 pounds, junior)
DT — Brandon Ivory (6-foot-4, 310 pounds, senior), Darren Lake (6-foot-3, 324 pounds, junior) —OR— Dakota Ball (6-foot-2, 270 pounds, sophomore)
DE — A’Shawn Robinson (6-foot-4, 320 pounds, sophomore), Dalvin Tomlinson (6-foot-2, 287 pounds, sophomore)
A’Shawn Robinson returns as Alabama’s top defensive lineman. As a true freshman in 2013, Robinson led the team with 5.5 sacks and was second with eight tackles for loss. Jarran Reed is expected to start at the other defensive end position, but following an offseason arrest, the talented JUCO transfer is indefinitely suspended, according to Saban. Ivory returns for his final season to anchor the middle of the defense.
Alabama rotates its defensive linemen so much that the backups could be considered starters. Jonathan Allen is a talented defensive end who finished his freshman campaign strong. Dalvin Tomlinson showed promise at the start of 2013, but suffered a season-ending knee injury the week after the season opener. Now healthy, Tomlinson should bolster the Tide’s pass rush. Darren Lake injured his pectoral muscle during spring practice and needed surgery. He’s expected to make a full recovery. D.J. Pettway is technically listed as a linebacker, but he spent the majority of time working with the defensive linemen during spring practice. Dakota Ball was thrust into a more prominent role during spring following Lake’s injury.
Redshirt sophomore Korren Kirven and sophomore Dee Liner could factor into the rotation, but weren’t in the two-deep at the end of spring practice. Both are talented and versatile but have quite a few other players ahead of them on the depth chart.
Da’Shawn Hand (6-foot-4, 273 pounds), Johnny Dwight (6-foot-3, 300 pounds), Josh Frazier (6-foot-3, 335 pounds) and O.J. Smith (6-foot-2, 330 pounds) were the summer enrollees from Alabama’s 2014 class. Hand is an early favorite to contribute this season.
“Last year, we just weren’t aggressive off the ball. This year we’re just more aggressive and firing out. I think we’re going to get to the quarterback a lot more this year.”
— Dalvin Tomlinson
Sports Writer Marq Burnett: On Twitter @Marq_Burnett.