Raekwon Davis has become Alabama's 'ferocious' defensive endBy Matthew Speakman | 11/15/2017 10:42pm
Even in a crowd of giants, Alabama defensive lineman Raekwon Davis would stand out. Sure, Alabama has had a lot of physical freaks over the years, but purely in stature, Davis is second to none. Standing at 6-foot-7, 306 pounds, he towers above most of his teammates on the sideline.
His size makes him a nightmare for opposing offensive lineman. He’s fast, big and can shuck off anyone who attempts to get in his way. Just ask center Bradley Bozeman, who gets to face Davis most days in practice.
“He’s an animal,” Bozeman said. “He’s a physical beast. He’s long, he’s strong, he’s really everything you don’t want to go against as an offensive lineman.”
With the departures of Jonathan Allen and Dalvin Tomlinson to the NFL, it has been Davis who has filled the role as Alabama’s dominant defensive end. This season, he has 49 tackles from that spot. That’s not even the most impressive stat. He currently leads the team with 6.5 sacks on the year. That’s 3.5 more than Tomlinson had in an impressive season, and only four shy of Allen’s total a year ago.
Davis has been one of Alabama’s best pass rushers all season. Getting to the quarterback is important, but his mere presence also frees up rush lanes for other players.
“Raekwon is a ferocious player, man,” linebacker Rashaan Evans said. “Just to have him on our team, on our defense, man, it helps my job. Just the fact that he’s able to get back there to quarterbacks and help me sometimes out when I’m in coverage is always a great thing for any linebacker to have.”
Davis’ size makes him a handful. It’s hard to find an offensive lineman that can match his physicality. One of the only ones happens to share a sideline with Davis. Offensive tackle Matt Womack is 6-foot-7, 320 pounds.
Even with his size, Womack struggles to block Davis in practice sometimes. It’s almost like a clash of the titans when the two go against each other.
“He’s a tall guy,” Womack said. “He might be a little bit taller than I am. He’s really strong and long, has long arms. It’s always a battle every day in practice.”
Davis’s size isn’t the only thing that makes him an effective pass rusher. He also has speed and power. He can run around guys, or shove them to the ground. He even challenges his other teammates to play on the same level as him.
"Whenever I try to make a tackle, he's right there with me,” defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne said. “It’s fun knowing that someone next to me is trying to compete … For him to move like that and be there is amazing. He surprises me every day."
Davis’ physical abilities are what get most of the attention, but beyond that, he has a drive that is crucial to his development. Ask anyone around Alabama and they will say that Davis plays with as much energy as anyone else on the team.
He is relentless in his approach, and plays with emotion. After almost every tackle, you can see Davis get up and roar with his arm stretched up in the air.
“We need to have more guys up front probably play with his kind of tenacious sort of tenacious attitude,” head coach Nick Saban said “I think that's what you like to see your whole defense play with."
The team agrees with Saban about Davis’ tenacious attitude. Linebacker Anfernee Jennings, who plays next to Davis, echoed Saban’s sentiments.
"Raekwon [Davis] is a great player.” Jennings said. “He's very energized. He plays fast. He's come a long way."
Davis’ development is a little ahead of schedule. He is only a sophomore. Most lineman at Alabama have to wait their turn to play for a couple of years. He has made a name for himself in just his second season at Alabama.
Part of this is his willingness to compete. Each play, Davis wants to impress those around him. As Davis continues to progress, Alabama will count on him to be as dominant as he has been this season.
"I think he's done a good job,” Saban said.” He's a very conscientious guy. He wants to do and please the coach in every way that he can. He plays hard. He's very competitive. He gives a lot of effort. He's played with a lot of toughness and I think he's made a lot of progress throughout the course of the year.”