TUSCALOOSA — Dylan Moses’ physical gifts made him an All-SEC selection as a sophomore in 2018.
He crashed backfields to the tune of 10 tackles for loss and 3½ sacks. He covered enough ground elsewhere to be the leading tackler on a top-25 defense nationally by yards allowed a play.
Those physical gifts are a welcome return to the Crimson Tide's defense in 2020, but not more than his mind and experience.
As Moses returns to his spot as a starting inside linebacker after missing 2019 with a knee injury, he gives Alabama more confidence in his ability to help others stop opposing offenses than his own ability to stop them. The impact could be seen as soon as Saturday's season opener against Missouri.
“To have him back, that’s a huge impact he has on the game every play,” Alabama defensive end LaBryan Ray said. “To play along with a guy like that, a leader like that, that’s something I don’t take for granted.”
Alabama coaches and players felt last year’s defense was missing a presence like Moses’. Placing freshmen Shane Lee and Christian Harris in inside linebacker spots forced them into the crucial roles in communicating pre-snap adjustments, among other things, that come with the position.
Now that Moses is back, he can say his ability to do the job comes from something Lee and Harris could not have had last year: confidence gained from experience.
“Being here for a long time and sitting back and watching other guys do the job, and you know, taking notes from that, it has actually helped me become the leader that I am,” Moses said.
In doing so, Moses has gained the trust of the architect of UA’s defense: head coach Nick Saban. The two talk regularly about the defense and his own play, even getting into rehabbing from their respective surgeries, Moses on his knee surgery repairing his ligaments and Saban on his hip surgery in April 2019.
The game experience and proximity to Saban has developed Moses’ football IQ, but he doesn’t see a cerebral thinker of game-plan expertise as what Alabama needs from his inside linebacker position.
“What’s more important for me is having a solid grasp for the team,” Moses said. “You can have a lot of great players, a lot of great athletes, but if you don’t have a bond or a relationship with the guys you’re on the field with, then you’ll never be able to have a fully great team or do what you really want to do as far as winning championships. I feel like in the offseason, I really took the time to develop relationships, make the guys comfortable with each other and I feel like now, we’re ready to play.”
Moses maintains the trust of his teammates from his 2018 performance, and in reinserting himself into Alabama's defense, he said, “Coach Saban is really comfortable with me.”
All that’s left is to reinforce the qualitative standards he wants in Alabama’s defense, hoping they produce the quantitative results they desire.
“I want to see toughness, grit. I want to strike fear in my opponents,” Moses said. “I want it to be how it used to be. That’s what Alabama’s identity is. I want to bring that back.”
Contact Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson.