Who will replace Patrick Surtain, Christian Barmore and Dylan Moses on Alabama football defense?
Most of the starters on the Alabama football defense will return in 2021, but the NFL still took a significant player at each level.
While the offense undergoes a significant transition with new talent replacing the players who went to the draft, the defense will have to make some tweaks. And competition will be tough with older and younger talent set to compete at each of these spots come time for fall practice.
Here’s the second of two looks at some of the candidates to replace 2020 Alabama starters now in the NFL, this one focusing on the defense.
Gone: Christian Barmore (38th overall, Patriots)
Analysis: Alabama lost its most productive player on the defensive line in Barmore, who finished with 9.5 tackles for loss and a team-high eight sacks. There are plenty of familiar faces who will be returning to the defensive line. Some of the notable players who will be back: senior Phidarian Mathis, junior Justin Eboigbe, senior LaBryan Ray, junior Byron Young, junior DJ Dale and sophomore Tim Smith.
It’s not a group that lacks in experience. Mathis, whom ESPN’s Mel Kiper ranked as the No. 3 defensive tackle in early rankings for the 2022 draft class, had 31 total tackles, five tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks while defending three passes and forcing a fumble in 2020. Young had 5.5 tackles for loss. The way Alabama rotates its experienced defensive linemen remains to be seen, but don’t be surprised if Smith sees an increased role in his second season with the Crimson Tide.
Also keep an eye on sophomore Jah-Marien Latham, who was voted most valuable lineman in the A-Day game.
Gone: Dylan Moses (undrafted free agent, Jaguars)
Analysis: Moses finished second on the team with 76 total tackles to Christian Harris (79). Moses also registered an interception, forced fumble and three passes defensed.
The Crimson Tide has several candidates to fill the spot opposite Harris. Henry To’o To’o is the most experienced. He transferred from Tennessee, where he had 148 total combined tackles over the past two seasons, and will be immediately eligible. To’o To’o tended to play better with the Vols when he didn’t have to be the top player, and he wouldn’t have to be in Tuscaloosa with the talent Alabama has in the other three linebacker spots in Harris, Will Anderson and Christopher Allen.
To’o To’o will compete with players such as senior Jaylen Moody and junior Shane Lee, among others. Moody saw time in spots in 2020, and Lee is returning from an injury. Some young talent could also see some snaps such as four-star freshman Deontae Lawson. Alabama has another four-star freshman in Kendrick Blackshire.
Gone: Patrick Surtain II (ninth overall, Broncos)
Analysis: Surtain is one of the top talents Alabama must replace after a 2020 season in which he broke up 12 passes and picked one off for a touchdown. Surtain started in 38 consecutive games before heading to the NFL. With Josh Jobe filling the other cornerback spot, Alabama will have plenty of competition for Surtain’s old spot in the base defense. Junior Jalyn Armour-Davis is one candidate. Kool-Aid McKinstry, a five-star freshman and No. 1 cornerback in his class, is another who could receive snaps early at cornerback. There’s also junior Marcus Banks, who primarily saw time on special teams in 2020.