Alabama Extremely Short-Handed on Defensive Line

Alabama Athletics
Christopher Walsh

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama's defensive line was even thinner than anyone knew against Mississippi State. 

During his Monday press conference, Nick Saban revealed that in addition to senior defensive end Raekwon Davis (ankle) and freshman nose tackle D.J. Dale (knee), sophomore defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis also suffered an undisclosed injury. 

All three are considered questionable for Western Carolina on Saturday (11 a.m., ESPN), along with junior wide receiver Henry Ruggs III (ribs).

Alabama has been starting two freshmen on the line since LaBryan Ray had foot surgery after playing three games. He has yet to return to practice. Behind them, the Crimson Tide has had two true freshmen at interior linebacker.

With teams able to bring on 70 players on the road for SEC games, Alabama only traveled eight defensive linemen to Mississippi State. The others were Byron Young, Justin Eboigbe, Tevita Musika, Stephon Wynn Jr. and Christian Barmore.

All but Musika are freshmen. 

"We basically played the guys that we had available to us," Saban said. "I think both of the young guys went in, 47 [Young] and 92 [Eboigbe], and they both did a pretty good job of playing. But they have played all year long, so it wasn’t like they’ve never played before. [Barmore] 58 got to play a little bit more because of it. He’s been getting better and better as a player. 

True freshmen Braylen Ingraham and Ismael Sopsher will likely be pressed into service against Western Carolina. Ingraham has appeared in one game, Sopsher none. 

"We will actually have to play a couple guys in this game that have not played, but they have games left, so this would not negate the opportunity that they could still be redshirted if they ended up playing in this game," Saban added. "We have seven scholarship guys left in the defensive line, and they’ll all have to make a contribution in this game if all these guys are out for the game.”

Players were given Sunday off, and the team won't practice Monday. 

Meanwhile, the Alabama coaching staff named its players of the week: Tua Tagovailoa and Jedrick Wills Jr. on offense; Shyheim Carter, Trevon Diggs and Anfernee Jennings on defense; and Jordan Battle and Joseph Bulovas on special teams.

Per the release: 

OFFENSE

Tua Tagovailoa

  • Finished 14-of-18 for 256 yards and two touchdowns in the first half before the junior exited with an injury
  • Hit on touchdowns from 19 and 35 yards out to help the Crimson Tide build an early lead
  • Averaged 18.3 yards per completion and 14.2 yards per pass attempt against the Bulldogs

Jedrick Wills Jr.

  • The junior turned in a dominant performance from his right tackle spot
  • Played 53 snaps while not allowing a sack, hurry or quarterback pressure
  • Did not miss an assignment as the Alabama quarterbacks combined for a 196.55 passer rating

DEFENSE

Shyheim Carter

  • Totaled seven tackles on the day, including one tackle for loss (-1 yard) from the senior
  • Helped direct an Alabama secondary that held State to only 82 yards passing on the day

Trevon Diggs

  • Contributed four tackles, including half a stop for loss (-1 yard)
  • The senior also broke up one pass, just missing a one-handed interception as the ground broke the ball loose

Anfernee Jennings

  • Ranked second on the Tide defense with eight tackles, including one tackle for loss (-3 yards)
  • Played a key role on an Alabama defense that limited MSU to only 270 total yards of offense

SPECIAL TEAMS

Jordan Battle

  • Made a heads-up play, fair catching the opening kickoff to give the Tide good field position to begin the game
  • Added one tackle on punt coverage, part of the freshman’s two stops on the day

Joseph Bulovas

  • Contributed eight points on the day with the redshirt sophomore going 5-for-5 on PATs and adding one field goal from 22 yards out
  • Also kicked off seven times for a total of 290 yards
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