Middle of Alabama's defense still has plenty of size
Wednesday night, Raekwon Davis sent out a picture that told a story no amount of words strung together could possibly match.
The true freshman defensive lineman from Meridian, Miss., tweeted out a picture of himself standing next to sophomore defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne and senior defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson. He captioned the picture with “Don’t run the ball up the middle,” an unsolicited piece of advice to opposing offenses.
What stood out about the picture was not the confidence expressed in the caption, rather that in the photo Davis, a 6-foot-7 mammoth lineman, successfully made the 6-2, 319-pound Payne and the 6-3, 307-pound Tomlinson appear normal-sized.
A 6-7 defensive tackle isn’t normal, but he’s not exactly a rarity either.
“Through the years we've had a couple guys like that,” UA coach Nick Saban said.
Throughout camp, Davis earned reps with the second-team. If ruled eligible (the university is currently awaiting word on if he’ll be eligible to play versus Southern California), Davis will be counted on to provide depth to a defensive line that lost A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed, D.J. Pettway and Darren Lake.
Along with Payne, who exhibited his potential in a stellar freshman season, Davis would make Alabama’s run defense be all the more difficult to run inside against.
Payne, the former No. 1 ranked player in the state of Alabama for the 2015 class, is making his mark on the defense, too.
“I feel like (Payne’s) footwork has gotten a lot better. He’s explosive, you already know that. He’s been working hard just like the rest of the d-linemen we have. He’s been progressing across the board in pass rushing. He’s doing pretty good so far.
“I feel like his footwork has gotten a lot better,” Tomlinson said. “He’s explosive, you already know that. He’s been working hard just like the rest of the d-linemen we have.
“He’s been progressing across the board in pass rushing. He’s doing pretty good so far.”
Payne is expected to take the next step in his development this season after a freshman campaign in which he was mainly limited to being on the field in Alabama’s base 3-4 defense, a defense the Crimson Tide plays less and less each season (for all intents and purposes the team is now a nickel base defense).
Now Payne is working to be on the field regardless of the defense.
"He didn't play a lot in nickel but really did a good job in regular and his role has expanded,” Saban said. “He's had a really good camp. We've tried to improve him a little bit as a pass rusher so he could be a good inside player for us and I think he's done that so he gives us another inside player that we can play, which I think is critical based on the guys that we lost.
“Jonathan Allen can play in or out. Dalvin can play in or out. Da'Ron can play inside, we've got a couple other guys that can be inside pass rushers on third down and of course we have the outside linebackers that play a little bit more when it's third down.”
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