With fall camp starting this Friday for Alabama football, the defending national champions are beginning their quest for the program's 19th title. Should the Crimson Tide win that title, the defense is going to play a large part in it, and that defense's interior linebacker position group is expected to contribute heavily.
Alabama lost three inside linebackers this offseason, with two heading to the NFL and one hitting the NCAA Transfer Portal. Dylan Moses found his professional home in the Jacksonville Jaguars and leaves a hole at Mike linebacker that will need to be filled this offseason. With 80 tackles in 2020, Moses led the entire team.
Joshua McMillon was the second player to leave for the NFL, but still has yet to sign with a program after not being selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. The final departing player was Ale Kaho, who entered the transfer portal soon after the season ended and, while initially committing to Utah, ultimately transferred to UCLA.
While all three players' departures leave gaps to be filled on defense, this year's returners and newcomers provide more than enough experience to make up for it.
The Crimson Tide sees five inside linebackers return in 2021, starting with Christian Harris. Harris finished just one tackle shy of Moses in tackles with 79 last season and led the team with 4.5 sacks. He was the Crimson Tide's starter at Will linebacker last season, but saw action at both Will and Mike this preseason. Entering his third season with Alabama, Harris is poised to become the defense's leader in 2021.
Shane Lee and Jaylen Moody are also two first-team players that are returning this year. Both provide experience at the position, with Lee being a junior and Moody a senior. This past spring, both were practicing with the ones and look to be making even more contributions at the position than last season. With Lee's experience starting for Alabama in 2019, he will likely see a decent amount of time on the field.
Jackson Bratton and Demouy Kennedy are the final two inside linebackers returning for the Crimson Tide. Both players had solid springs, adding to the likelihood that they will be heavily utilized in the rotation.
And we haven't even gotten to the team's biggest offseason addition on defense.
Tennessee transfer Henry To'o To'o joined the program this offseason after two seasons in Knoxville. Over those two seasons, To'o To'o led the Volunteers in tackles and was the team's signal-caller on defense. Given his experience at the position, he could make a run at Mike linebacker to replace Moses, with Harris remaining the starter at Will. That being said, both Harris and To'o To'o are well-suited for the position, so regardless of who starts against Miami, the Crimson Tide will be set.
Three true freshmen joined Alabama this offseason in Kendrick Blackshire, Ian Jackson and Deontae Lawson. Both Jackson and Lawson saw action in the spring for the Crimson Tide, while Blackshire is joining this summer. All three are solid additions at the position, and while the trio might not see time as starters in 2021, they provide an incredible amount of depth at the position.
The 2021 Crimson Tide interior linebackers have some of the greatest depth we've seen in quite some time in Tuscaloosa. While the three top linebackers on the team are pretty well-established, the question this offseason is who will start where. Harris will be on the field regardless, but whether he will be at Mike or Will has yet to be seen. Moody and To'o To'o will no doubt be competing with Harris for the other position, depending on where Harris lands. It's even possible that Moody and To'o To'o are used in a rotation. The duo are simply that talented.
2021 Crimson Tide Interior Linebackers
• Returning: Jackson Bratton, Christian Harris, Demouy Kennedy, Shane Lee, Jaylen Moody
• True Freshmen: Kendrick Blackshire, Ian Jackson, Deontae Lawson
• Departed: Ale Kaho, Joshua McMillon, Dylan Moses
• Incoming: Henry To'o To'o
This is the seventh story in a series previewing the 2021 Crimson Tide by position.