The time has come for Dillon Lee. The only question awaiting an answer is whether or not the junior linebacker takes advantage of the opportunity in front of him.
The Buford, Ga., native meets the eye test, a 6-foot-4, 242-pound athlete able to play inside or outside in the University of Alabama's defensive scheme. He worked with both groups of linebackers last season, but spent the majority of the season practicing and playing with the outside linebackers.
He played in eight games in 2012, the most memorable moment of his freshman season coming in the season-opener against Michigan with an intercepted pass. As a sophomore he played in all 13 games, mostly on special teams, snaring a blocked punt and returning it for a touchdown against Colorado State, and in back-up duty.
He was No. 2 on the depth chart at Sam linebacker behind starter Adrian Hubbard last season, and enters this season the heir apparent. But UA coach Nick Saban and his coaching staff don't hand out starting jobs to the next guy in line. Lee will have to earn that designation.
He's off to a good start.
"I think Dillon Lee will be a really good player for us," Saban said. "I think he has a good understanding of what we want him to do. He runs well. He's got good size and plays good block protection, especially at the line of scrimmage.
"We feel like he can be a very good player and competing for a starting job right now. We're confident that if he wins that job, he'll be able to do an outstanding job for us."
Lee brings athleticism to the position, able to be an edge rusher and play in space on one down or plug gaps the next. He can play the pass too.
Much like C.J. Mosley last season, Lee could be an every-down linebacker. In a league that's increasingly playing uptempo, that's a plus for him and for the Alabama defense.
The first thing you notice about him is the wild dirty blond hair, spilling out the backside of his helmet. But it's his speed and agility, especially for a guy his size, that are among his best attributes. His toughness shouldn't be overlooked either, teammates say.
"Dillon is very versatile," junior linebacker Denzel Devall said. "Great guy. Very physical. Just an athlete. He's smart, and I believe he'll come in and do a great job for us."
Reach Aaron Suttles at firstname.lastname@example.org or