What will Alabama’s outside linebacker position look like this season under Kevin Steele
By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Sam Thornton
TUSCALOOSA-The University of Alabama’s outside linebacker slot has a void to fill without third overall draft pick Will Anderson applying pressure every snap.
However, one of the best defensive players to play under Alabama head coach Nick Saban made sure to leave his imprint on the still dangerous outside linebacker room highlighted by junior Dallas Tuner.
Turner, a projected Top 10 pick in next year’s NFL draft, provided significant support alongside Anderson last year with 16 solo tackles and four sacks. Some college football experts predicted Turner’s output would be higher with Anderson being clogged up with double team protection last season.
You can surely expect Turner to hit his ceiling this year as the No. 1 option on the edge despite being sidelined with an injury throughout spring camp.
One name that could stand out the most this season within the outside linebacker unit is senior Chris Braswell, who accounted for three sacks and a forced fumble last season for Alabama.
With three years under Saban, Braswell undisputedly has a starting role in his palms alongside Turner. Under new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, Braswell will increase production from year’s past under Steele’s 4-2-5 defensive scheme.
Former Alabama defensive coordinator Pete Golding ran a 3-4 defensive scheme that isolated more one-on-one matchups against the edge, mainly applied for Anderson’s ability. This negated protection in Alabama’s secondary, which was compromised in the pass game against opponents like Tennessee.
With Steele’s new formation, there will be more athleticism in the secondary that frees up the linebackers to take more chances.
Expect the linebacker unit to take more responsible risks with the safety net of five defensive backs behind them. This could result in more substantial tackles for loss in the opponents run game this year.
What’s most intriguing is the development of trio linebackers Keanu Koht, Jeremiah Alexander and 5 star freshman Qua Russaw. With injures to Turner and Braswell during spring camp, all three players made a showing at A-Day, showcasing valuable first and second team reps in camp.
“I think that’s one of the biggest things right now is the guys that would be some of the best leaders are not guys that are able to participate. But the good news is the other guys that play with them and behind them are getting a world of experience, which is gonna be very beneficial to them in their development,” Saban said according to BamaOnLine.
Regardless if these young players earn the right to make an impact this season for the Crimson Tide, they will surely do so eventually. One thing is clear, Kevin Steele wants his defensive backs to become the backbone of this defense, which will ultimately put the outside linebacker unit at ease compared to last season. Could that strategy prove to increase the impact of players like Turner and Braswell? It just might.