TUSCALOOSA — The injury bug has bitten Alabama again, and this time it was a deep cut.
Alabama junior middle linebacker Dylan Moses suffered a significant knee injury in Tuesday’s practice, likely costing the Crimson Tide its most important defender for "an indefinite period of time" and quite possibly the season, according to head coach Nick Saban.
AL.com reported Moses' injury was a torn ACL.
“Dylan was injured yesterday at practice, he had a knee injury and it requires surgery so he'll be out an indefinite period of time,” Saban said Wednesday on the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference. "Certainly this is a character check for our team and we're going to do everything we can to support Dylan and the people that have the opportunity now to fill in for Dylan."
Moses was set to take over as Alabama’s defensive “play-caller” this season after replacing Mack Wilson at the Mike linebacker. He was a Butkus Award finalist last season after leading the Tide with 86 total tackles while starting all 15 games at the Will/weakside spot.
It’s the second significant knee injury to an Alabama inside linebacker this preseason. Redshirt senior Joshua McMillon also sustained a season-ending injury in the first scrimmage.
Saban said true freshman Shane Lee, an early enrollee, will take over for Moses, although redshirt sophomore Markail Benton is also listed as Moses’ co-backups in the team’s depth chart released Monday.
When Lee starts, it’d mean three true freshmen would take the field in the heart of Alabama’s defensive front seven Saturday against Duke after Christian Harris was named the starting Will linebacker D.J. Dale was announced as the starting nose guard.
"Christian Harris has had an outstanding fall camp and has been running with the starting unit, and Shane Lee is the backup Mike, and he's the guy that will have an opportunity to play now," Saban said. "We have several other linebackers that are competing at the position, and we're pleased with what those guys can do. It's going to be something that our coaches, myself included all try to support these guys and put them in the best position that they can have success."
Saban also declined to comment on reports late Tuesday night regarding potential internal suspensions of four players for the first half of Saturday’s season opener.
"What happens on our team internally is an internal family decision that I don't feel is necessary to share with anybody outside the organization," Saban said. "We're not commenting on any of this stuff, this is misinformation. It's an internal family affair."
BamaOnline and BamaInsider reported Alabama junior running backs Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr., linebacker Terrell Lewis and receiver DeVonta Smith will miss the first half against Duke after reportedly missing a mandatory team function.
The first-half absence of both Harris and Robinson further complicates the running back situation, which lost talented five-star signee Trey Sanders for the season with a foot injury. Redshirt freshman Jerome Ford, who has been limited with an ankle sprain, is in line to make his first career start against Duke if Harris and Robinson are unavailable. True freshman Keilan Robinson and redshirt sophomore Chadarius Townsend, of Tanner, are also backfield options.
"We’re going to work him in and see what he can do and try to do more and more each day and try to see if we can get him back to 100 percent," Saban said of Ford last week. "He’s done really well before he was injured so we planned on him playing in the game, and if he’s healthy enough and the doctors clear him and we feel like he’s 100 percent, we’ll play him in this game."
Alabama has enough depth to get by for a half at both outside linebacker and receiver, with redshirt sophomore Chris Allen in line to replace Lewis and sophomore sensation Jaylen Waddle likely to start in place of Smith.