It might be the Christmas season, but don’t think for a second Dabo Swinney is going to feel sorry for Nick Saban and Alabama.
Some people have wondered how healthy the Crimson Tide will be when No. 1 Clemson faces fourth-ranked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day as part of the College Football Playoff Semifinals.
Alabama has spent much of the 2017 football season, especially on the defense side of the ball, beat up. Ten of its key contributors on defense have been injured or are out for the season such as senior linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton and defensive back Hootie Jones.
Linebackers Christian Miller (bicep) and Terrell Lewis (elbow) missed 10 games this year before returning for brief playing time in the Auburn game. Fellow linebacker Mack Wilson missed the last two games of the regular season with a foot injury.
All three are expected to back for the Sugar Bowl. When a reporter last week described all the Alabama injuries and used the word “decimated” to describe the Tide’s season, Swinney just chuckled and said, “I would never use the term decimated at any position group at Alabama, alright.”
And though Swinney is right, Alabama is not decimated by any stretch of the imagination, it is banged up. Rashaan Evans, another linebacker, also missed two games this year due to an injury as did fellow linebacker Afernee Jennings.
Defensive end Da’Shawn Hand missed three games, and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick missed one game due to a hamstring injury which he has been battling through for much of the year.
Last week, Alabama suffered another loss at linebacker when starter Dylan Moses was injured in practice after suffering a foot injury. He will likely not play in the Sugar Bowl after being listed out indefinitely.
However, Swinney still is not feeling sorry for Saban. He has had his own concerns with the injury bug this year.
Starting middle linebacker Tre Lamar missed the last three games with a back injury. He is expected to be back for the Sugar Bowl. Cornerback Mark Fields missed the last six games with a foot injury, as did fellow corner Marcus Edmond for much of the season with his own foot injury.
Safety Tanner Muse broke his hand and a missed game, while starting weakside linebacker Kendall Joseph missed two games with a knee injury. Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence was hampered by an injured toe for much of the season and then missed two games after suffering an ankle injury against Georgia Tech.
At one point, Clemson got so thin at cornerback because of all the injuries it had wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud share time at cornerback, where he came in and covered NC State’s best receiver on the game’s final drive.
Reserve linebackers J.D. Davis and Chad Smith also missed time due to injuries, while fellow reserve linebacker Judah Davis is listed out for the Sugar Bowl with an MCL sprain.
By the way, Clemson also lost reserve defensive end Richard Yeargin to a neck injury which he suffered in a car accident over the summer. Starting H-Back Garrett Williams was lost for the season after tearing up his ACL in the last week of spring practice, while kicker Greg Huegel was lost for the year with a torn ACL as well, which he suffered on the last play of practice the week of the Boston College game.
Also, freshman defensive end Logan Rudolph was lost for the year after tearing up his shoulder in practice the week of the Virginia Tech game.
So, don’t think for a second Swinney or anyone else is feeling sorry for Saban and Alabama.
“They have players for days,” Swinney said. “Just go check all of those recruiting rankings. They have had some guys hurt, but those guys that are playing … they just did not show up there like they fell off the turnip truck.
“They are really good football players.”
He is right, they are. Alabama finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense and No. 2 in total defense despite all of the injuries. By the way, the Tide also ranked third in the country in rushing defense.