Following the 2015 national championship season, Alabama lost three top defensive linemen, and two of them are defensive ends. It was good fortune for the Crimson Tide when Jarran Reed and D.J. Pettway were joined at East Mississippi Junior College, and then came to Bama prior to the 2014 season.
Now those two, along with defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, are expected to be taken in the upcoming National Football League draft. Reed was a starter, while Pettway was a back-up who had an outstanding game in Alabama’s 45-40 win over Clemson in the College Football Playoff national championship game.
Alabama returns one starter, and a very good one. Jonathan Allen, who many expected to join Robinson in declaring early for the NFL draft, has elected to return for his senior season. Allen (6-3, 283) was first team Al-Southeastern Conference last year as he started 11 of 15 games and led the Tide with 12 sacks for 88 yards in losses. He was in on 36 tackles, 15 of them behind the line of scrimmage, had 6 quarterback pressures broke up four passes, and caused two fumbles. He was SEC Lineman of the Week when he recorded three sacks and seven total tackles in a win over Mississippi State.
Here is our pre-spring look at the defensive end positions.
Allen is assuredly going to be one of the top two ends when Alabama begins spring practice on March 11 (tentative), and most expect competitive battles for the other end spot and for the back-up roles that are so important on the defensive front.
Dalvin Tomlinson (6-3, 294, senior) has played in every Alabama game over the past two years as a back-up on the defensive line. He played in the first game of his freshman season in 2013, but suffered a season-ending knee injury. Tomlinson has shown very good pass-rushing skills and last year had six passes broken up, the most of any defensive lineman. He also had four quarterback pressures and was in on 33 tackles, one for loss.
Da’Shawn Hand (6-4, 273, junior) is an outstanding talent coming from the outside. He played a significant role down the stretch in the 2015 season, seeing action in every game. He was in on 12 tackles, five of them for lost yardage including three sacks, and also had two quarterback pressures.
Johnny Dwight (6-3, 300, third-year sophomore) hasn’t seen a great deal of playing time, but has split his time between offense and defense. Although he had been listed in the tight end competition going into last season, he ended up as a reserve on the defensive line, and appears slotted for defensive end competition this spring.
The spring competition will also include two men who were signed for the 2015 season, but will not see action until at least the upcoming year.
Anfernee Jennings (6-3, 255) is a redshirt freshman after sitting our while recuperating from surgery prior to his arrival at Alabama. In the 2015 recruiting class he was a four-star prospect ranked by Scout as the 14th best defensive end prospect in the nation and 118th on the Scout 300 regardless of position. Anfernee will be joined in spring practice by his brother, Shawn, a defensive back who signed with the Tide this year and entered The University for the spring semester.
Christian Bell (6-4, 240) was a grayshirt signee having signed in the class of 2015, but delaying his entry into The University until this year so he is a true freshman. One by-product of the delay is that he is 20 pounds heavier than he was coming out of high school, when he was a Scout three-star and ranked 40th among defensive ends nationally.
Alabama had one returning walk-on defensive end on the roster at the end of the 2015 season. He is Jake Long, a 5-9, 226-pound senior.
NEXT: Our pre-spring look at Alabama players by positions is on inside linebackers.