Pass rush dealing with injuries, new faces


CW / Hannah Saad

James Ogletree, Sports Editor

With less than two weeks remaining before Alabama football kicks off its season against Duke in Atlanta, the team is looking to craft a consistent pass rush to pressure opposing quarterbacks. 

Alabama ranked fifth in the 130-team Football Bowl Subdivision with 45 sacks last year, but for just the third time in 12 seasons under coach Nick Saban, the team must replace its top three pass rushers from the year before. 

Senior defensive end Raekwon Davis had a disappointing junior year, recording 1.5 sacks compared to his team-leading 8.5 in 2017.

Some of that can be attributed to the rise of Quinnen Williams, but Davis took accountability and said he’s working on getting back to “sophomore Rae.”

“Last year, it was pretty much me and stuff I didn’t do, like the little things,” Davis said. “The little things matter. Last year, as a person, I wasn’t doing it. I feel like this is my chance to prove myself to everybody like my team that I can do it and I can be that role model, that leader I was supposed to have been.”

Davis is surrounded by young players who need to be molded and mentored, as eight of the team’s 12 scholarship D-linemen are true or redshirt freshmen.

The depth at outside linebacker, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired. Senior Anfernee Jennings is a strong veteran presence, but he’s the only member of the group who has played a meaningful snap in the last year.

Redshirt junior Terrell Lewis and redshirt sophomore Chris Allen would have factored heavily into the defense’s plans in 2018 but both had season-ending knee injuries last summer.

“You might not see it right now, like, ‘Oh I’m not going to be playing,’ or ‘I’m not starting,’ but you can’t look at it like that,” Lewis said. “Be prepared, because one day you might just get thrown in the fire.”

Lewis and coach Nick Saban both mentioned true freshman King Mwikuta’s potential to develop as a key depth player this year. Mwikuta and fellow freshman Kevin Harris II have received the majority of the “butt-chewings” from fiery OLB coach Sal Sunseri, but no one is exempt.

“He ain’t the type of coach that’s gonna sit there and pat you on the back all the time,” Jennings said. “He’s gonna tell you when you mess up, he’s gonna tell you when you’re doing good and just keep it real with you at all times.”

Three of the team’s primary five pass rushers have been limited at various points during fall camp, so Sunseri and D-line coach Brian Baker have their work cut out for them. 

On the defensive line, freshman nose tackle D.J. Dale returned to practice this week after missing a week and a half with a sprained knee. and junior defensive end LaBryan Ray was sidelined for the first part of fall camp with an ankle injury.

Lewis insists he’s 100%, but coaches, knowing his immense potential and importance to the defense, are still being cautious with him as he works back into the rotation.

“We just capitalize,” Jennings said. “We all complement each other, so it’s gonna be fun.”