Spring practice: 10 positions, 10 questions

Oct 14, 2017; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban leads his players out to the field prior to the start of their game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 14, 2017; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban leads his players out to the field prior to the start of their game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

[ LB  |  TE  |  P  |  PK  |  QB  |  S  |  OL  |  DT  |  RB  |  LB ]

10. Outside linebacker

This isn’t so much about numbers as it’s about performance. Last year’s outside linebacker group, by the end of the year, was struggling due to injury.

There are sort of two issues in play here: One, how to align and Terrell Lewis, both of whom were hurt for all or parts of and who play essentially the same position, and two, how to structure a chart that not only keeps the starters’ exposure to injury limited, but also gives Bama some punch off the bench when it needs to get to the quarterback.

For whatever reason, Bama’s QB pressure numbers never seemed to line up with their true, in-game impact. and Jennings both had solid seasons numbers-wise, but once Miller went down the whole thing collapsed. Based on their builds, one would think Lewis would get the Jack position and Jennings slide to strongside linebacker, but used its OLBs as defensive ends with increasing frequency in 2018, and Lewis is much better at coming out of a stance than is Jennings.

Assuming both can stay healthy for an entire year, the next question is whether and can take the next steps in their development. Allen was injured in and Anoma was a one-trick pony, able to come upfield on a speed rush just fine – but that was about it. With running at tight end for the moment, the only other outside linebacker on the roster for now is Jarez Parks, who is more of a run defender than pass rusher at the moment.

Summary: Basically, what are looking for right now is production that matches potential. Last year’s group didn’t display it. was the position coach for this group last year and despite deserved criticism of his coordination abilities, the consensus on his position coaching was that he did a good job. Sal Sunseri takes over this group in 2018, and while he is expected to bring a more aggressive style of play, his exit a few years back from the defensive coordinator role at was a performance not all that much different – in fact, it was objectively worse – than was Lupoi’s for in 2018. Translation? Don’t make a lot of assumptions about either coach, or any of the players, until Alabama’s retooled has a chance to make its own statement this fall.

Follow Jess Nicholas on at @TideFansJessN

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