Projecting Alabama's starting 22 in 2020 after latest wave of early exits to NFL
Somewhere in a super-secret, ultra-secure meeting room tucked away in the Mal Moore Athletic Complex, there is an oversized board covered with little magnetic rectangles.
This room, that likely needs both a retina scan and a DNA check to enter, is where what Alabama coach Nick Saban calls “administrative groupings” are notated. Each magnetic rectangle has a name and number written on it, designating each Crimson Tide player on the roster and where they stand in the pecking order.
Known by the rest of the football-loving world as a depth chart, this board and those rectangles are always moving around. Some, like the rectangles with Tua Tagovailoa’s name, have already been recycled to newcomers like Bryce Young. Others, like the rectangle belonging to Alex Leatherwood, was on the pile of departures before being slotted back for 1 more season.
No one gets to see into this room to get a glimpse of this board. Except you, now, with this sneak peek at the 2020 Alabama Crimson Tide projecting starting lineup:
2019 Starters – Exhausted Eligibility
2019 Starters – Headed to NFL
QB: Tua Tagovailoa (Jr.)
* RB: Najee Harris (Jr.)
WR: Jerry Jeudy (Jr.)
WR: Henry Ruggs III (Jr.)
OL: Jedrick Wills (Jr.)
2020 Projected Starters
QB: Mac Jones (R-Jr.)
This job will be an open competition in the spring and, potentially, even when practice begins in the fall. But it is most certainly Jones’ to lose. He threw for 1,503 yards and 14 touchdowns against 3 interceptions, and went 3-1 as a starter after Tagovailoa went down with an ankle injury and then a season-ending hip injury. Sure, incoming 5-star Bryce Young and Tagovailoa’s little brother Taulia will push Jones, but again … it’s his to lose.
RB: Brian Robinson Jr. (Sr.)
This could all change if Najee Harris decides to stay in Tuscaloosa for his senior season, but as of the moment, Robinson is the guy in the backfield. He rushed for 441 yards and scored 5 touchdowns in 2019, and caught 11 passes for 124 yards. Redshirt freshman Trey Sanders and sophomore Keilan Robinson are the backups here.
WR: DeVonta Smith (Sr.)
This is a huge get for Jones and Alabama, as Smith had lower-1st round potential as a junior. He caught 68 passes for 1,256 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2019, including setting the school records for single-game receptions (11), single-game receiving yards (274) and single-game touchdown catches (5) against Ole Miss.
WR: Jaylen Waddle (Jr.)
That’s Waddle’s spot moving forward, as he steps into the limelight that shone on Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III. Waddle caught 33 passes for 560 yards and 6 touchdowns as a sophomore, but also shone as a kick and punt returner — where be returned 20 punts for 487 yards and 1 TD and 5 kickoffs for 175 yards and 1 TD.
WR: John Metchie III (So.)
Metchie just saw light action for Alabama in 2019, catching 4 passes — 1 each against Duke, Southern Miss, Arkansas and Western Carolina — for 23 yards. He also played against Ole Miss.
WR: Tyrell Shavers (R-Jr.)
Played even more sparingly than Metchie in 2019, catching his lone pass — a 20-yarder — against Ole Miss. He also played on special teams against Mississippi State, Arkansas, New Mexico State and Duke.
TE: Miller Forristall (Sr.)
Was slowed some by a throat injury in 2019, but emerged as the Tide’s primary TE threat — catching 15 passes for 167 yards and 4 TDs. Will be pushed by sophomore Jahleel Billingsley, who caught 2 passes for 16 yards in 2019.
OL: Alex Leatherwood (Sr.)
Considered a jump to the NFL, but instead will protecting the blind side of whomever the Alabama quarterback will be at his left tackle spot. Leatherwood earned 1st-team All-American honors from the AFCA, and was named to the All-SEC 1st-team by the league coaches.
OL: Evan Neal (So.)
Neal was selected as a Freshman All-American by 247Sports and was tabbed to ESPN.com’s Freshman All-American team. He also earned Freshman All-America accolades from USA Today.
OL: Landon Dickerson (GT-Sr.)
A graduate transfer from Florida State who arrived before the start of 2019, Dickerson earned honorable mention All-American accolades at guard by Pro Football Focus and was named an All-SEC 2nd-team honoree at center by the league coaches.
OL: Darrian Dalcourt (So.)
Played 69 snaps as a true freshman at center, and saw action in 7 games of the 2019 season (Duke, New Mexico State, South Carolina, Southern Miss, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Western Carolina).
OL: Deonte Brown (Sr.)
Brown missed the first 4 games of the 2019 season via NCAA suspension, but played in the past 9 contests with 7 starts at right guard — contributing to a Tide offensive line that surrendered only 12 sacks in 381 pass attempts this season
OL: Amari Kight (R-Fr.) or Pierce Quick (R-Fr.)
Kight redshirted 2019 after playing only against Western Carolina in 2019. Quick also redshirted 2019, appearing in games against New Mexico State, South Carolina and Southern Miss.
2019 Starters: Exhausted Eligibility
DE: Raekwon Davis
OLB: Anfernee Jennings
S: Jared Mayden
CB: Trevon Diggs
CB: Shyheim Carter
2019 Starters: Possible NFL
OLB: Terrell Lewis (R-Jr.)
FS: Xavier McKinney (Jr.)
2020 Projected Starters
DE: LaBryan Ray (Sr.)
Played in 3 games as a junior after appearing in 15 games in 2018. Made 5 total tackles against Duke, New Mexico State and South Carolina.
DT: DJ Dale (So.) or Christian Barmore (R-So)
Dale started 10 games at nose tackle in the regular season, missing the Western Carolina and Auburn matchups, and recorded 17 tackles, including 3 for loss. Barmore was named to the Freshman All-SEC team by the league coaches, working in 11 games with 1 start. He totaled 24 tackles, including 6 for loss (-26 yards) and 2 sacks (-12 yards)
DE: Byron Young (So.) or Justin Eboigbe (So.)
Young developed a role in the defensive rotation up front in 2019, recording 22 tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss (-7 yards) in 12 games of action, including 4 starts. Eboigbe sat out the 1st 2 games this season recovering from an injury, but played in 10 games and started 2.
OLB: Chris Allen (R-Jr.)
Allen was in line for a monster 2018 before injuring his knee and missing the entire season. He returned from injury in 2019 and has saw time in all 13 games, totaling 8 tackles.
MLB: Christian Harris (So.) or Joshua McMillon (R-Sr.)
Here’s where it gets tricky, as Alabama has 4 standout middle linebackers to fill 2 spots. Harris was named to the Freshman All-SEC squad by the league coaches, starting in 12 games and playing in all 13. He tied for 3rd in the league among all-SEC freshman defenders in tackles for loss with 5.5 (-12 yards). McMillon was granted a medical redshirt after injuring his knee before his senior season and will play what will be a 6th year.
MLB: Dylan Moses (Sr.) or Shane Lee (So.)
Like Harris and McMillon, the same problem applies here. Moses — a 2nd-team All-American by Walter Camp and an All-SEC 2nd-team honoree in 2018 — missed the entire 2019 season after a preseason knee injury. Lee moved into the starting middle linebacker spot for UA following a season-ending injury to Moses, and was on ESPN.com’s Freshman All-American team and was named to the Freshman All-SEC team by the league coaches.
OLB: King Mwikuta (So.)
Mkikuta saw time on special teams as a freshman, totaling 4 tackles in his 9 games of action. True freshmen Drew Sanders and Quandarrius Robinson could be in the mix here, too.)
CB: Patrick Surtain II (Jr.)
The son of NFL Pro Bowl corner Patrick Surtain, he earned honorable mention All-American honors by Pro Football Focus by totaling 35 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions and a fumble recovery in 2019.
CB: Josh Jobe (Jr.)
Jobe played in 14 games in 2018, and worked in 12 games with 1 start in both the secondary group and on special teams in 2019.
FS: Jordan Battle (So.)
A big-bodied DB, Battle worked his way into the rotation at defensive back during the fall and played in all 13 games with 4 starts — recording 26 tackles with 2 tackles for loss (-6 yards) and 1 sack (-4 yards).
SS: DeMarcco Hellams (So.)
Hellams established a role on special teams while working in a deep secondary unit in 2019, seeing time in all 13 games — with 4 tackles.