How does a defense produce an FBS-leading 146 sacks over a three-year span? By getting a strong mix of production from linemen and linebackers alike.

That's been the case at Alabama since 2015, as the likes of Jonathan Allen, Ryan Anderson, Tim Williams, Rashaan Evans and Raekwon Davis have led an ongoing assault of opposing quarterbacks. While it's been linemen -- Davis and Allen -- who have topped the last three UA defenses in sacks, linebackers have done more than a little bit of the heavy lifting, accounting for exactly half of the Crimson Tide's sack output over the last three seasons.

In fact, if there was a difference in last year's production and the previous two seasons it was that sacks from UA's inside and outside linebackers were down from 32 in 2016 and 26 in 2015 to 15 in 2017. As for an explanation for the dip at those spots, one need look no further than injuries sustained by Evans, Terrell Lewis, Anferenee Jennings, Christian Miller, Mack Wilson, Dylan Moses and Shaun Dion Hamilton. Between them, the aforementioned players combined to miss 35 games a year ago.

Fortunately for Nick Saban, his defensive line stayed relatively healthy, with starting end Da'Shawn Hand (three games) and reserve end LaBryan Ray (four games) representing the extent of the injury list up front. With that, Davis took over the mantle from Allen as UA's top sack man, with all 8.5 of his in 2017 coming against Power 5 competition.

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While Alabama's sack total last season (40) was down from historic campaigns in 2016 (54) and 2015 (52), when the Crimson Tide needed them the most, it racked up a combined nine sacks in College Football Playoff wins over Clemson and Georgia. And even when UA didn't get Kelly Bryant and Jake Fromm on the ground, pressure played a large role in two interceptions recorded, ironically enough, by defensive linemen Da'Ron Payne (vs. Clemson) and Davis (vs. Georgia).

Looking ahead to the upcoming season, Alabama will need to replace three players -- Evans, Hand and Payne -- who were important pieces to the pass rush puzzle. Evans excelled off the edge in pass situations and while his 2017 sack total didn't reflect it, Payne evolved into a disruptive force on the interior. In addition to Davis, UA welcomes back nine more players who had at least one sack a season ago.

That group includes a quartet of veteran outside linebackers in Jennings, Lewis, Miller and Jamey Mosley, a group that will be augmented by sophomore Christopher Allen and true freshmen Jarez Parks and Eyabi Anoma. There's also the possibility of projected weakside starter Moses kicking outside to buck in the dime rabbits. Joining Davis inside on occasion will be Buggs and Williams, with Ray a good bet to see time in some pass rush looks as well.

Several options from which to choose, especially if the injury bug doesn't bite for a second straight season. Who ya got as Alabama's sack leader in 2018?

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