Alabama deep at defensive line

Robinson may be best D-line prospect during Saban's tenure

Anniston StarMarch 11, 2014 

Alabama defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson (86) puts pressure on Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace. Top ranked Alabama played host to the #21 ranked Ole Miss Rebels at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday. Sept. 28, 2013. (Photo by Trent Penny)

PHOTO BY TRENT PENNY

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- We're done looking at the offensive side of the ball. Now it's time to move to the side where championships are won.

Alabama has fielded one of the nation's best defenses in each of the past five years and will look to do the same in 2014.

Today, we look at the Crimson Tide's defensive line, which could be heading for a big season.

Departed: Jeoffrey Pagan, Ed Stinson

Ready for spring: Brandon Ivory, rising senior; A'Shawn Robinson, sophomore; Jonathan Allen, sophomore; Dalvin Tomlinson, redshirt sophomore; Dee Liner, sophomore; Darren Lake, junior; Jarran Reed, junior; D.J. Pettway, junior; Korren Kirven, sophomore; Dakota Ball, sophomore.

Coming in the fall: Da'Shawn Hand, Johnny Dwight, Josh Frazier, O.J. Smith

Outlook: In terms of bodies, the 2014 group will be the deepest during Nick Saban's tenure.

Alabama's defensive line will be able to go nine or 10 deep. And with starters Pagan and Stinson moving on, there'll be an open competition at the defensive end spots.

One player who's a virtual lock to start will be rising sophomore Robinson. As a true freshman last season, Robinson led the defense in sacks and was second in tackles for loss. His 5.5 sacks were two more than Stinson and Pagan had combined while eight of his 38 total tackles went for loss. Many scouts and pundits have noted that Robinson could potentially be the best defensive line prospect during Saban's time at Alabama, including Marcell Dareus, who was a top-five NFL Draft pick. Robinson is versatile and strong enough to play defensive end or defensive tackle.

Then there's Allen, who if not for Robinson, would have likely received more headlines. Coming out of high school, Allen fit the mold of an edge rushing linebacker. But he improved each game as his body developed into that of a full time defensive end. Allen is also an early favorite to earn one of the starting positions along the line.

Ivory is a true defensive tackle. Since arriving in Tuscaloosa, Ivory has reshaped his body to become a consistent contributor for the Tide. While he isn't a dominating nose tackle like Terrence Cody, Josh Chapman or Jesse Williams, Ivory is physical against the run and is improving as an inside rusher. His spot won't be safe next season as some of the younger players look for more playing time.

Tomlinson was the third defensive end heading into 2013, but a second season-ending knee injury slowed his development. He is a talented pass rusher, but his durability is a serious concern.

Liner, Korren Kirven and Lake all need to make a move to avoid being passed by younger teammates.

Reed and Pettway should provide an instant boost. Reed has the strength to play outside and the quickness to lineup on the edge. He could even see time at nose guard when the Tide lines up in its 3-4 defense.

Pettway is a pass rushing specialist. He'll be eager to prove that he's worthy of this second run with the Tide. His prior knowledge of the scheme should put him on par with those ahead of him on the depth chart.

Hand is expected to contribute from day one despite not arriving until the fall. Hand is both a skilled edge rusher and able to hold up against the run.

Similar to the offensive line, the defensive line has a nice mix of veterans and talented newcomers.

With all of the talent and depth at the position, the 2014 defensive line may be the most productive during Saban's run at Alabama.

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