Dylan Moses' season-ending injury makes Alabama's revenge tour a much steeper climb
It felt like we spent all offseason hearing about Alabama’s revenge tour.
The expectation was that yet again, an angry Nick Saban-coached team would come back and dominate the college football world following the blowout loss to Clemson in the national championship.
It felt like we spent all August hearing about Alabama’s injury report.
First it was starting inside linebacker Josh McMillon going down with what’s expected to be a season-ending knee injury. And in that same injury report, we heard about 5-star freshman tailback Trey Sanders going down with a season-ending foot injury.
And Wednesday, the worst injury report update for someone on Alabama’s roster not named “Tua Tagovailoa” came out.
Preseason All-American Dylan Moses, AKA the quarterback of Alabama’s defense, suffered a torn ACL and will miss all of 2019.
Brutal. Devastating. Gut punch. The type of news that comes out and even Alabama fans aren’t like, “no big deal. Just throw in another 5-star.”
Nah. Moses was bigger than that. He was supposed to be the guy at the center of Alabama’s defensive resurgence after its embarrassing finish to 2019. Moses was supposed to be the SEC’s 2019 version of Devin White. Like, the player fans loved and offensive coordinators hated because he was seemingly everywhere all the time. Moses was supposed to have an All-American season before leaving to become the top linebacker selected in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Hold the phone on all of that.
That revenge tour? Oh, it’s still absolutely a thing. Saban’s teams winning national championships in 4 of the 5 years they came off a bowl loss will still be something college football fans think about in the likely event that Alabama rips through its regular-season schedule again.
But did the revenge tour path just get a heck of a lot steeper for Alabama? Absolutely.
Including the early NFL Draft departure of Mack Wilson, Saban’s inside linebacker group has suddenly turned into the team’s biggest question mark in 2019. That group will be led by true freshmen Christian Harris and Shane Lee, as well as sophomore Markail Benton, who had 14 tackles in a limited role last year. Saban could call on former blue-chip recruit Ben Davis to switch to inside linebacker after seeing action in just 3 games in his first 3 years in Tuscaloosa.
Yeah, that’s not ideal. Upon that realization, I pictured Saban muttering his famous line “you think we s— out players?” phrase to himself as he stress ate a Little Debbie snack.
But losing Moses to a season-ending injury just days before the opener? That’ll make any Alabama fan nauseous.
We’re talking about someone who was once compared to Bo Jackson, LeBron James and Ray Lewis. In that same video that came out while he was a 5-star recruit in 2015, Moses said that “he hadn’t proven anything yet.” Four years later, Moses might not be getting those kinds of comps anymore, but he had proven himself.
What Moses meant to that defense was huge. He was the guy who made all the calls, which was pretty important for a defense that lost 5 players to the NFL Draft. He led the team in tackles and was a Butkus Award finalist as a sophomore. All signs pointed to him delivering a classic Alabama defensive player pre-draft season like Quinnen Williams, Jonathan Allen and C.J. Mosley.
Now, Alabama has to prove that it can move on without Moses. It’ll need a new captain of the defense. It’ll look for someone who can blow up a play in the backfield to force 3rd-and-long. It’ll try to find someone who can move sideline to sideline to prevent a ball-carrier from getting to the next level.
The good news for Alabama is that the revenge tour bus doesn’t have any pit stops against Top 25 teams until it heads to College Station in mid-October. By then, perhaps someone like the oft-injured Terrell Lewis or maybe the inconsistent Raekwon Davis can revert to his 2017 ways.
With or without Moses, the Alabama defense needed to improve to complete the revenge tour. The margin for error was already slim considering the offensive firepower that Clemson returns from last year’s title squad. And let’s not forget about Jake Fromm and the Georgia offense, which carved up the Alabama defense for the majority of last year’s SEC Championship before Jalen Hurts saved the day.
Without Moses, there’s now more pressure than ever on Alabama’s offense to be even better than it was last season. That’s asking a lot.
Alabama suddenly has as big of a curveball to deal with as any national championship contender. It’s as devastating of an early-season injury as the Crimson Tide have had in recent memory, and perhaps as devastating as any under Saban depending on who you ask.
Having said all that, this year could still end with Alabama atop the college football mountain yet again. Betting against anything derailing the revenge tour might be premature.
But outside of a season-ending injury to Tagovailoa, this is the closest thing to a revenge tour roadblock that Alabama could have gotten.