As previously noted, Alabama’s nominal 3-4 defense is three down linemen and four linebackers, two inside linebackers (middle and weakside) and two outside linebackers (Jack and strongside, or Sam). In fact, Alabama almost never is in this configuration because of the reliance on an extra defensive back for most situations.
Also as pointed out previously, some men are capable of playing more than one linebacker spot, including being outside in some situations and inside in others. Last year Dillon Lee was particularly used both at Sam (outside) and middle in others.
Lee, who was listed as the starting strongside linebacker, and Denzell Devall, who was No.1 at Jack, have completed their eligibility.
The outside spots, however, are far from depleted. We examine the Jack and Sam positions prior to the start of spring practice on March 11 (tentative) as part of our series.
The strongside linebacker is ordinarily lined up against the offensive side that has a tight end. Being on that side with the extra blocker did not intimidate Ryan Anderson (6-2, 249, upcoming senior), who was frequently used in passing situations. Anderson managed six sacks for losses of 41 yards among his 12 stops behind the line (50 yards), almost one third of his 37 tackles. He also managed nine quarterback pressures and also caused and recovered two fumbles.
Anderson will go into spring practice as the leader at strongside.
The Jack linebacker is in at least as good a shape as Sam, even without a returning starter. Both Tim Williams (6-4, 230, senior) and Rashaan Evans (6-3, 225, sophomore) had big moments in pass rush situations for Bama last year.
Williams was in on 19 tackles and more than half of them – 13 – were behind the line for losses totaling 92 yards. Eleven of those were sacks (78 yards). He also had four quarterback pressures and broke up a pass.
Evans was in on 10 tackles, four of them sacks for losses of 28 yards and had three quarterback pressures.
Alabama Coach Nick Saban and his staff are looking for more than starters, of course, as the Crimson Tide begins work following the 2015 national championship season.
Alabama has a handful of men who would likely be considered outside linebacker candidates, and who could end up either at Jack or Sam. They include:
Christian Miller is a 6-4, 213-pound third-year sophomore who saw action in nine games last year, primarily on special teams.
Two outside linebackers were redshirted last year as true freshmen. They are:
Keaton Anderson, 6-1, 220, and Mikhi Brown, 6-5, 240.
There is also a true freshman who entered The University in January and will be practicing this spring. He is Shawn Jennings (6-1, 220), brother of redshirt freshman defensive end candidate Anfernee Jennings.
NEXT: An examination of Alabama cornerback candidates.