Crimson Tide player to watch: Dillon Lee
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. _ University of Alabama coach Nick Saban says he’s looking for leaders and all indications are that Dillon Lee is trying to be one of them.
During the first two days of training camp the junior has been among those — at least during the observation period when reporters are allowed to watch – making an effort to stand out as a veteran others look to during drills.
What’s also different is that so far he’s only been at strongside linebacker, where the Crimson Tide has to replace two-year start Adrian Hubbard and Lee figures to have his best chance of landing a starting job.
“I feel like we’re going out there and we’ve all got the right mindset, we want to win a championship,” junior Denzel Devall said. “I feel like we’re going out there each and every day with a chip on our shoulder and striving to get better.”
Although Lee’s hard-hitting nature and versatility made him a regular on special teams last season, seeing him line up at different spots for practice became a regular thing.
He was second on the depth chart at strongside linebacker during the 2013 season when he played in all 13 games, with 16 tackles and two quarterback hurries, but was also a reserve in the interior when Alabama went to its nickel package.
“He’s a diverse player,” C.J. Mosley said last fall. “He’s a physical player and he can hold that point of attack so he can hold the edge.”
Teammates also described him as “crazy” (in a good way), “wild,” and as a Clay Matthews III-type player who is just relentless.
The crazy compliment comes from his brutal hard hits and plays like the punt he blocked and retuned for a touchdown against Colorado State, and the diving interception against Michigan in his first game with the Crimson Tide in 2012.
“Dillon Lee’s a beast,” former safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said at the Sugar Bowl.” He’s going to be that player next year.”
However, two years ago Lee and linebacker Ryan Anderson were the players sent home from Miami for violating team rules mere days before Alabama crushed Notre Dame in the BCS Championship Game.
Lee had another off-field setback during the spring with his arrest for driving under the influence. Consequently, on A-Day he was assigned to the second-unit defense alongside early enrollee Shaun Dion Hamilton in the interior. He finished with nine tackles.
Maybe an older Lee decided he liked being a leader, or perhaps coaches told him he had to be or else. Whatever it was, fans can only hope that it worked.
“Discipline is not punishment,” Saban said during SEC Media Days. “Punishment is only effective when it can help change somebody’s behavior.”
It was also notable that Saban went out of his way to single out all three primary outside linebackers (Devall, Xzavier Dickson and Lee) at the end of spring.
Granted, just about everyone’s role could change before training camp concludes in three weeks — with Reggie Ragland and Reuben Foster competing for the middle linebacker spot and prize recruit Rashaan Evans initially working behind him at Sam — but so far Lee has been a fixture.
That makes him a player to watch during training camp.