TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Denzel Devall is expected to help upgrade Alabama's pass rush in 2013.
Devall, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound sophomore, says he patterns his game after Julius Peppers and former Alabama great Derrick Thomas. He's also been watching film of former Tide star Courtney Upshaw and "studying how he got off on the edge."
Devall, a Bastrop, La., native, was the No. 2 rated player in Louisiana, according to Rivals.com, and a consensus four-star player for the Tide's 2012 class.
He played in all 14 games as a true freshman, mostly seeing the field as a third-down pass-rushing specialist. He had 17 tackles (seven solo), two sacks, three tackles for loss and three hurries.
It was the Arkansas game that made spectators aware of his talents. Devall came off the bench and recorded four tackles, including a sack and a fumble recovery.
"It was a great feeling, I know that for sure," he said.
He had his "ah-ha" moment while watching the team prepare for the BCS national championship last season.
"I find it funny when I sat out a couple of practices before the bowl game," he said. "I was watching practice and it was so fast. I was like, 'Do we really move that fast when I'm on the field?' I can see how we get through a lot. Everything is up-tempo fast."
He compared coming in as a freshman to being blindfolded. Devall noted he is more confident entering Year 2 in the Tide's defensive scheme.
"Coming in as a freshman of course you're shaking, but right now I'm getting comfortable," he said. "I'm getting better and working hard each and every day."
Devall received high praise for his work ethic and ability from teammate junior Xzavier Dickson, who started six games at the pass-rushing outside linebacker spot last year. The two are competing for snaps at the "Jack" linebacker spot.
"Devall's a great player, a young player," Dickson told al.com at Alabama's annual Fan Day earlier this month. "He's going to be real good. He's probably going to be a starter this year. He's a real good player. It's going to be a rotation between the two of us."
The two have developed a relationship that is sure to push the other to the next level.
Me and Xzavier, we're click tight," Devall said. " It's like my big brother. He helps me with things, I help him with things."
Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is on record saying the 2012 defense didn't meet some of the standards set by previous Tide defenses. Devall said returners from last year take that personally.
"We use that like a chip on our shoulders," Devall said. "Just keep grinding. We want to be the best, basically, so we're just going to keep grinding and get better each and every day."