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Breakout Candidates on Defense for Alabama in 2023

The Alabama Crimson Tide is set to feature some breakout players on defense in 2023 after a solid start in Spring practice.

.The Alabama Crimson Tide saw a big shift as a result of the change in defensive coordinators. With Pete Golding taking the defensive coordinator position at Ole Miss, head coach Nick Saban decided to have a familiar face in Kevin Steele coach the defense once again. In the early years of Saban at Alabama, Steele developed and utilized the talent and potential of players on the roster. This 2023 season, the defense for Alabama possesses a variety of high-caliber talent with unique characteristics. The Tide is well underway with Spring practice in preparation for the 2023 football season. Several players like outside linebacker Dallas Turner and cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry have already taken leadership of the Tide’s defense. This allows other players to shine. These four players are set to break out on defense for Alabama in 2023.

Breakout Candidates on Defense for Alabama in 2023

At the Defensive Tackle Position

Alabama has had a level of high-talent play in the middle of its defense. Our first player to watch,  Jaheim Oatis is another huge-sized physical player that looks to continue the legacy of great defensive tackles under Saban. What makes Oatis more unique is his superior athleticism and his weight change. When Oatis arrived as a freshman in 2022, he was over 400 pounds. Oatis has lost around 100 pounds and currently weighs 320 pounds this Spring. This past season, Oatis played in 12 games while starting in 10 of those. He accumulated 29 total tackles, 10 solo tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, and two pass breakups. Oatis played well as a run-stopper, but also as an overall playmaker for the Tide’s defense. He exceeded expectations. Oatis looks healthier, faster, and more alert, which brings serious concerns to opposing offenses.

Linebackers to Watch

Two-time All-American outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr. is going to be tough for the Tide to replace as he moves to the NFL. The Jack linebacker is a position that our next player to watch, senior Chris Braswell, is determined to master. He will try just as Anderson did in the three previous seasons. Last season, Braswell played in 12 games for the Tide’s defense. He filled in for Anderson and moved around the edge or played at the second level of the defense. Braswell accounted for 20 total tackles, four sacks, and two-and-a-half tackles for loss. Most of the attention on the edge will be focused on Turner from the Sam linebacker position, which opens opportunities for Braswell to go in and make big plays. This Spring is Braswell’s opportunity to showcase his athleticism and closing speed to the quarterback of the edge.

With Deontae Lawson unable to fully practice this Spring after being set to potentially take over the Mike linebacker this upcoming season the next man up and next player to watch is former Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Trezmen Marshall. In his four years at Georgia, Marshall accumulated 30 total tackles, 16 solo tackles, four-and-a-half tackles for loss, one sack, and one interception. There have been times during Spring practice when Lawson and Marshall have been on the field at the same time in certain drills. This is a perfect time for Marshall to get his second (and last) chance as a starter with a new team by playing well at Mike or Will linebacker, depending on the packages.

The Secondary

Saban getting the final player to watch, Caleb Downs is significant for several reasons. Downs was the sixth-highest-ranked prospect in the 2023 National Recruiting rankings and the top-ranked safety. He was the highest-rated player from the state of Georgia, pulling him away from the grasp of Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs. Downs is already making a statement for the Tide’s defense this Spring. He is taking multiple first-string reps at safety. He competes with senior Malachi Moore and junior DeVonta Smith for the free safety position. Downs already surpasses the development of other freshman and young players on the roster. Downs moves incredibly smoothly and reacts quickly toward the ball. Look for the hype of Downs to continue to rise as Spring practice progresses.



Photo courtesy: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports


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