Stuart McNair

Alabama inside linebacker corps is not deep this spring, but has talent

This is 11th in a series looking at Alabama positions prior to spring practice

There aren’t many of them, and at least one may not be participating in spring football practice, but it is hard not to get excited about the group of Alabama inside linebackers. No one can help but be amazed at medical miracles insofar as the effectiveness and speed of surgeries and rehabilitation of football players who suffer injuries, but it seems unlikely that Shaun Dion Hamilton would be ready for full participation this spring.
Hamilton suffered a knee injury in the Crimson Tide’s Southeastern Conference Championship Game victory over Florida, causing him to miss the College Football Playoff games against Washington and Clemson after he had started every game at middle linebacker. Hamilton was fifth-leading tackler last season with 64 stops, including 9 for lost yardage. He also had 2 pass interceptions returned for 40 yards, forced a fumble, broke up a pass, and had 1 quarterback pressure. He is expected to return for the upcoming season.
Alabama also is without Butkus Award winner Reuben Foster, Bama’s leading tackler in 2016, who has finished his eligibility.
Alabama has two inside positions, middle (Mike) and weakside (Will) and they are similar in responsibilities with the exception that ordinarily the Mike calls the defensive front.
This is part of a series looking at all Alabama positions prior to the start of spring drills.
When Hamilton was injured, Alabama moved Rahsaan Evans up to start alongside Foster at inside linebacker for the two playoff games. Evans was not lacking in experience, having been a regular who played in all but the Kent State game.
Last year Evans (6-3, 231, senior) was in on 53 tackles, including 4 sacks. He had 6 quarterback pressures, broke up 2 passes, recovered a fumble, and forced a fumble against Kentucky which was recovered by Ronnie Harrison and returned for a touchdown.
As noted in our preview of outside linebackers, it is not unusual for a player to be moved from inside to outside or outside to inside. As an example, Evans was an outside linebacker in his first two seasons at Bama.
Junior Keith Holcombe (6-4, 227) is spending the spring with the Alabama baseball team again this season, but he will also participate to some extent in spring football practice. He is one of the fastest players on the Crimson Tide baseball team.
In addition to having been a backup linebacker, Holcombe has been outstanding in special teams coverage in his Bama career. In 2016 he was a coaches’ choice for player of the week recognition 9 times, 8 of them on special teams.
Last year he had 24 tackles (9 of them on kick coverage) with 1 tackle for loss and 1 pass breakup.
Mack Wilson (6-2, 244, sophomore), like many Bama players do early in their careers, got most of his action on special teams, and made one of the most memorable hits of the season with a kickoff coverage tackle against Texas A&M. As a freshman he was in on 8 tackles and recovered a fumble.
Wilson was also used as an H-back on occasion and made a diving catch for a touchdown against Kent State.
Ben Davis (6-4, 234) was redshirted as a freshman, but will be at an inside linebacker spot in spring drills. He was rated the nation’s top inside linebacker prospect by Scout.com for the 2016 signing class. He will come into the 2017 season needing 327 tackles to match his father’s record at Alabama. Wayne Davis is the all-time leading tackler in Tide history.
One of Alabama’s 16 signees who entered The University for the spring semester and will participate in spring practice is Dylan Moses (6-3, 235), ranked the nation’s No. 1 linebacker by Scout.com. He was Parade Magazine Prep Player of the Year and High School Butkus Award winner as the nation’s best prep linebacker for his play at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. He had 116 tackles as a senior after having 104 as a junior at Southern Lab in his hometown of Baton Rouge.
Although a starting date for Alabama spring practice has not yet been announced, it is expected to begin after the completion of The University’s spring break, which is March 11-19. The A-Day Game will be April 22.


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