TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — When Alabama inside linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton went down with a knee injury against LSU this past Saturday, his impact on the team came to light.
Hamilton provided stability in the middle, and he was also reliable when it came to helping put the rest of the defense in place. No disrespect to the other defenders, but it’s no coincidence LSU’s biggest play, a 54-yard run by LSU running back Darrel Williams, came when Hamilton was off the field.
“We just didn’t communicate,”Alabama linebacker Keith Holcombe said of the play. “Like coach [Nick] Saban stated when he was talking to the media, half the team was playing one call, the other half was playing another call. That’s just a mistake we need to fix and we have. That’s something we need to keep building on is communication.”
That type of communication error likely doesn’t happen with Hamilton running the show in the middle. Hamilton served as an extension of the defensive coaching staff.
“He’s probably one of the smarter players that we’ve had around here in my time being here in terms of being able to make adjustments, being able to make calls,” Saban said of Hamilton. “Helping other players play better because of his ability to do those types of things. He is a good leader. There’s a lot of things that he does extremely well, and he’s a very, very productive player. He’s an all-around good player that is a great teammate, that has been a guy that’s a signal caller. So by the things that he does out there, he really allows other players to be able to play with more confidence because of his knowledge and experience.
“We just have to have our other players on the team need to do that very effectively for us.”
So, where does Alabama turn now? Holcombe should get first crack at replacing Hamilton. He stepped in against the Tigers alongside Rashaan Evans. It’ll be on Evans and Holcombe to lead this young group of linebackers and call the defense.
Freshman Dylan Moses, who Alabama was using as a pass rusher off the edge, will slide back into one of the inside linebacker spots.
Beyond that is a bit of a mystery. Alabama moved freshman VanDarius Cowan from outside to inside linebacker.
“I don’t think this is something that anybody should sit around and say, ‘Wow, I’m going to have to pick up my game now,'” Saban said. “I think everybody should have been picking up their game to start with. Everybody has to be who they are and do what they do and be a good teammate, support the players that are out there, play together as a unit, do their job. That’s the way we need to go about it.”
What Alabama lost in Hamilton in terms of intangibles such as leadership, toughness and competitive spirit won’t be replaced this season.
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