Moses to lead defense in second year

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Moses to lead defense in second year

Ben Stansell, Assistant Sports Editor

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The deafening sound of thousands of cowbells can be utterly nerve-racking – especially to a freshman linebacker getting his first meaningful road-game snaps.

Thrust into the game as a stopgap for an Alabama linebacker corps reeling from injuries, it was trial by fire for Dylan Moses against Mississippi State last November. And while the former five-star filled in admirably, his nerves led to mistakes that were typical of a freshman, but not ones he expected to make.

“I made some mental errors in that game,” Moses said. “Those cowbells really got to me, and it was probably the loudest atmosphere I’ve ever been in up to that point, so that was probably the most scariest point for me.”

Alabama managed to escape Starkville with a 31-24 victory, but Moses left with even more: in-game experience that would jumpstart his development as a player.

“Being thrown in back then, I didn’t know what to expect,” Moses said. “But just being thrown in back there, it helped me for what to expect now for future games and being able to be a big-time player and just coming in and doing what I have to do and handle my responsibilities and do what coach Saban asks me to do.”

That experience, coupled with advice and encouragement from some of Alabama’s veteran leaders like Minkah Fitzpatrick and Shaun Dion Hamilton, led to Moses having breakout performances against Mercer and Auburn. In those two games combined, Moses recorded 21 total tackles, four of which were for a loss, and an interception.

“What changed after that was the older guys really surrounded me and was like ‘Dylan, you’ve got to step up. We need you,’” Moses said.

Alabama’s veteran players weren’t only providing Moses with words of encouragement, however. They also spent extra time with him in the film room, helping him prepare mentally for what he would see on the field.

Now as a starter alongside Mack Wilson at inside linebacker, Moses has blossomed into the leader that Fitzpatrick and Hamilton were for him. Instead of being the one asking for help understanding Alabama’s playbook or a defensive assignment, Moses is passing down his own knowledge to this year’s crop of freshmen.

Moses’ newfound role as one of Alabama’s defensive leaders also requires him to serve as the voice of the defense, a duty he and Wilson will share. Having to relay play calls and adjustments to the defensive line while maintaining communication with the secondary will mean Moses will have to be one of the most vocal players on the team – something he was not always comfortable with.

“Oh, he’s amazing now,” defensive lineman Quinnen Williams said. “Like last year, Dylan was getting in as a true freshman. He was doing his thing, but he was really quiet. This year, we really pushed during camp to speak more vocally because we need them. They need to give us the calls. And I’m happy him and Mack Wilson are coming back. Wilson really helped him with all that stuff like that. So, Dylan Moses really became a vocal reason for us.”

Over coach Nick Saban’s tenure in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide has become a linebacker factory. Alabama regularly brings in highly-touted recruits and churns them out as college football stars and NFL standouts. Based on his pedigree and the flashes he showed last year, Moses – who was named to the third team preseason All-SEC defensive team – is next in line this season.

Don’t expect nerves to elicit many errors from Moses in 2018. Once you’ve been tested by a raucous crowd shaking thousands of cowbells, you’re not going to be unsettled easily.