Stuart McNair

Know Your Foe - Alabama Defensive Line

With Alabama leading the nation in rushing defense (allowing 63.4 yards per game), total defense (247.8 ypg), scoring defense (11.8 points per game), and defensive touchdowns, (10), and ranking in the top five in first downs allowed, third down defense, and sacks, it’s understandable that the Crimson Tide defensive line gets attention.

Most of that attention has gone to senior defensive end Jonathan Allen, winner of this year’s Badnarik and Nagurski awards as the nation’s top defensive player and the Hendricks Award as No. 1 defensive end. Southeastern Conference coaches voted him Defensive Player of the Year.

Alabama’s normal defensive alignment has three defensive linemen, but the Tide also uses a four-man front in some situations.

Allen elected to return to Bama for his senior season, in part because he knew that two Alabama defensive linemen on the 2015 national championship Tide team — A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed — were likely to be drafted in front of Allen.

As the lone returning starter from that group, Allen was the leader. He is first among defensive linemen (and tied for fifth overall for Bama) in tackles with 27 primary stops and 29 assists. He has had 13 tackles for loss (81 yards), including 8 1/2 sacks. Allen has a team high 15 quarterback pressures and has broken up two passes. But his most notable statistic is in fumble returns. He returned one for 75 yards and a touchdown against Ole Miss and one for 30 yards and a TD vs. Texas A&M in the Tide’s 13-0 season.

When Paul Bryant played football at Alabama in the 1930s, he was known as “The Other End” to the incomparable Don Hutson, who went on to Hall of Fame production with the Green Bay Packers. The other end on this year’s Tide defensive front is Dalvin Tomlinson, a senior who backed up Reed last year.

Tomlinson has also had a very good year for Bama, right behind Allen with 54 total tackles, 3 sacks, 7 quarterback pressures, and 4 deflected passes.

The top backup at end has been junior Da’Shawn Hand, another outstanding pass rusher.

Da’Ron Payne, a sophomore who is the strongest Alabama player, took over for Robinson in the middle of the line and has been a rock. He also has a fumble return for a touchdown this year.

Defensive Line

Left End

Jonathan Allen (6-3, 291, Sr.)

Da'Shawn Hand (6-4, 280, Jr.)

Nose Tackle

Daron Payne (6-2, 319, So.)

Josh Frazier (6-4, 315, Jr.)

Right End

Dalvin Tomlinson (6-3, 305, Sr.)

Dakota Ball (6-3, 268, Sr.)

Raekwon Davis (6-7, 315, Fr.)

Alabama’s defensive linemen are not small, but Coach Nick Saban made the decision a few years ago to recruit more athletic defenders and men who were more capable of playing three downs in order to be more effective against spread, hurry-up offenses.


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