Alabama football: It's 'next guy up' for injury-riddled Crimson Tide defensive line
TUSCALOOSA — Shaun Dion Hamilton knows what it's like to be on the wrong side of a devastating season-ending injury.
That's why Alabama's senior middle linebacker also is aware that no single injury — or in this case, four — is going to derail Alabama's defense.
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Coach Nick Saban confirmed Monday that redshirt junior outside linebacker Christian Miller and sophomore outside linebacker Terrell Lewis will undergo season-ending surgeries this week after suffering a torn biceps muscle and torn elbow ligament, respectively, in Saturday's 24-7 win over No. 3 Florida State.
"We hate it that we lost these players. They're both good players. They both made significant improvement. They both played well in the game," Saban said. "But this is an opportunity for somebody else to step up and be able to play at a high level as well. And we're going to work very hard as a coaching staff to help those guys get in position to do that."
Meanwhile, senior middle linebacker Rashaan Evans (groin) and junior outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings (sprained ankle) both suffered "significant injuries" that aren't expected to affect them long-term, Saban said, but could limit them for the next several weeks.
Jennings, Lewis and Miller were not spotted at Monday's open practice viewing, while Evans was briefly seen leaving the practice field in a black, non-contact jersey.
"You lose two guys, the next two guys have to step up," Saban said. "(Injuries just) create opportunities for other people in the program. We're going to have to take some of the younger guys that we have and try to develop them more quickly."
Alabama plays in Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday against Fresno State (1-0).
Walk-on junior Jamey Mosley was seen leading the outside linebackers through individual drills, followed by sophomore Mekhi Brown and other underclassmen.
"We have a lot of good young guys and I already told them that if y'all need anything from me I am willing to help and watch extra film with them or whatever," said Hamilton, who missed last year's College Football Playoffs with a torn ACL. "I know me and all the other coaches and some of the leaders are going to do what we need to do to get those guys ready."
Freshman Dylan Moses could see more opportunities at inside linebacker with Evans expected to miss some time, as will redshirt junior Keith Holcombe and sophomore Mack Wilson, both of whom split significant reps in the second half against Florida State.
Among the younger outside linebackers that could be counted on sooner than later include redshirt freshman Ben Davis, as well as true freshmen Christopher Allen and VanDarius Cowan.
"He's one of the guys that as a young player has the opportunity to show what he can do," Saban said of Davis, who moved from inside to outside linebacker this offseason after redshirting last year. "We'll sort of see who develops and who can help us the most."
Alabama's coaches also appeared to have made a slight position change with freshman defensive end LaBryan Ray seen going through individual drills with the outside linebackers. It's not clear if the move is officially a position change or simply temporary to allow Ray to work on his pass rushing technique, but the 272-pound Madison, Ala. native could certainly provide much-needed depth at outside linebacker..
While acknowledging some players might have the capacity to change positions, Saban appeared hesitant to make any sweeping changes, including potentially moving a couple of inside 'backers outside.
"I do think that there are some guys that have position diversity who can move and play other positions," Saban said Monday. "But if we move them out, then we've created another issue for us at another position. We have some young players who we think can develop (at outside linebacker). Obviously they don't have the experience, but we've played young players before."
This article is written by Alex Byington from The Decatur Daily, Ala. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.