TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Disappointments in life can often be great motivators for people who strive to not make the same mistakes again.
After a lackluster junior year on the defensive line, Alabama senior Raekwon Davis is out to return to 2017 form, which was a season that earned him first-team All-SEC honors.
He led the Crimson Tide in sacks with 8.5, and was third in tackles (69).
In 2018, however, Davis had more than a decline, he recorded only 55 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
No one is more aware of his drop in production than the senior.
“Yeah, last year, it was pretty much me and stuff I didn’t do, like the little things,” Davis said. “The little things matter. Last year, as a person, I wasn’t doing it.
“[I] just I feel like it wasn’t me last year. I feel like this is my chance to prove myself to everybody like my team that I can do it and I can be that role model, that leader I was supposed to have been. That’s about it.”
At the end of the 2018-2019 season, Davis surprised many by deciding to forgo the NFL Draft and return to the Crimson Tide.
In addition to making changes in his technique, Davis has also strived to develop his leadership skill in the offseason on a defense that saw several key playmakers leave for the NFL last season in Quinnen Williams, Isaiah Biggs, Mack Wilson and Christian Miller.
“I feel like I’m taking a leadership role much better this time,” Davis said. “Just pushing my team. Really just really deep down pushing my team and giving my team more energy every day. “
Alabama coach Nick Saban said he's also seen improvement in Davis’ game and leadership capabilities over the course of fall camp.
“I think he’s kind of taken a leadership role in that room and I think that started with him setting a great example in terms of the effort that he played with — the intensity that he played with,” Saban said. “Controlling his emotions to play with emotion but not be emotional, and he’s got good knowledge and experience of what he’s supposed to do and how he’s supposed to do it so he’s really really played well. If he continues to play like that I’m sure he’ll have a great year. “
One struggle that the massive defensive (6-7, 312 pounds) dealt a lot more with in 2018 was being double-teamed by offensive lines. After his breakthrough campaign, opposing offenses became intently aware of Davis’ prowess and long reach, and made the adjustments to stifle his game.
That was also with Quinnen Williams in the Crimson Tide lineup.
Whether they do or not, the challenges remain the same.
“I think half the time it really had something to do with me, not my opponents,” Davis said. “It just had a lot to do with me and what I was doing wrong. Basically, it was just me. It was me. Like I said, some stuff I wasn’t doing and wasn’t working on.”
With junior linebacker Dylan Moses suffering an ACL tear in practice this week , the Crimson Tide is now poised to start two freshmen at interior linebacker in Shane Lee and Christian Harris, plus another next to Davis at nose tackle, D.J. Dale.
With so many inexperienced players in the interior, it's now more important than ever that the defensive line provide constant pressure on the opposing team’s quarterback in order to reduce the load on the young linebackers.
When asked on how he’s going to improve his pass rush, Davis said that returning to 2017 form is what he needs to do.
“Just getting to my old self, to that sophomore Rae, to that sophomore pass-rushing Rae," he said. "That’s about it.”