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Alabama's defense returns all the missing pieces from last season

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In a year that acquainted us with the “Murder Hornet,” a different pest is feared most by those in Tuscaloosa, Ala. To say the injury bug stung the Crimson Tide last season is an understatement. Instead, it ravaged the heart of Alabama’s defense, picking off four starters from the front seven by the time the team labored into last year’s Iron Bowl.

This year seems to be bringing a bit better fortune.

“I think the injuries have gone fairly well — knock on wood,” Nick Saban said last week, expressing the thoughts of Alabama supporters everywhere.

You’ll forgive Saban for being a bit superstitious. The head coach, who receives a lucky penny from his daughter, Kristen Saban Setas, before every Alabama game, might as well stock up on rabbit’s feet, wishbones and four-leaf clovers this season — anything to avoid last year’s bought with bad luck.

At this time last year, Alabama had already lost its top two inside linebackers in Dylan Moses and Joshua McMillon to ACL injuries, forcing the team to start true freshmen Shane Lee and Christian Harris for the season opener against Duke. Two weeks later, starting defensive end LaBryan Ray sustained a season-ending foot injury, leaving the Tide’s defense with even less experience.

The final blow came against Mississippi State as defensive tackle D.J. Dale suffered a season-ending knee injury. The freshman’s absence was certainly felt during Alabama’s 48-45 loss to Auburn as the Tide allowed the Tigers to rack up 181 yards on the ground.

All four players have returned from their respective injuries and are set to contribute to the team this season. Here’s a look at where they stand and how they’ll help Alabama improve.

Dylan Moses

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