Alabama looks for leadership on defense after Shaun Dion Hamilton injury

Alabama looks for leadership on defense after Shaun Dion Hamilton injury

For what felt like the 10th time of the night, Bryant Denny Stadium was silent as another Alabama player was on the turf in pain. This time it was Shaun Dion Hamilton. 

Hamilton knew the problem immediately, throwing his helmet a couple yards in disgust. He had fractured his knee cap, ending his season early for the second straight year. 

"Man, a guy like SDH [Hamilton], it really sucks for him, and I know all the team loves him as a person on and off the field," offensive guard Ross Pierschbacher said. "It’s one thing to miss a player like that on the field, but just to [not] have a guy like that in the locker room. I know he’ll still be around cheering us on, but it just sucks for a guy like that, to see him work so hard to come back from an ACL injury, and then for him to go out like that.”

Last year Hamilton tore his ACL in the SEC Championship game against Florida. 

Hamilton has been Alabama's starting middle linebacker all year, and was second on the team with 40 tackles. 

Hamilton, Rashaan Evans and Minkah Fitzpatrick are three of the main leaders of the defense. Fitzpatrick was limited because of a hamstring injury that occurred in the first quarter of the LSU game.

Hamilton went down early in the second half in Alabama's win over LSU. The Tigers followed up with a 54-yard run, which head coach Nick Saban called a "defensive miscommunication." 

"I wouldn't say that because it's on every player's shoulders to communicate," linebacker Keith Holcombe said. "You can't go around driving blind and stuff like that. So that's just something that ... now that Shaun's down or anybody's down — even when Christian or Terrell went down earlier in the season — guys have had to step up and communicate and talk and we just need to keep doing that." 

Holcombe is Hamilton's replacement in the starting lineup. Holcombe has already filled in the starting lineup after Evans' groin injury after Florida State. 

"I do whatever the coaches need me to do," Holcombe said. "People saying I need to step up my game because SDH is down but I'm just going to do whatever I need to do to help this team. And, earlier in the season with Razor [Rashaan Evans] going down, it prepared me to get ready for this. I know I can play, I'm comfortable with the defense and I'm looking forward to the opportunity."

For the second straight year, a key member of the Alabama defense will finish his career early. Last year, it was safety and punt returner Eddie Jackson.

"It was a kind of similar situation," Pierschbacher said. "For a senior like SDH to go out like this, I talked to him about an hour ago and he’s still in good spirits. A guy like that, he’s going to just use this to move forward and learn from it. He’ll be on the sideline, I’m sure, cheering us on. Yeah, we’ll definitely use that as motivation to play for him." 

The senior linebacker combo of Evans and Hamilton have been the play callers for the Alabama defense; now, the Crimson Tide needs to find the next signal caller, and Holcombe wants to take up that role. 

"It's just something that I have to take on myself that I have to step up to the plate," Holcombe said. "Like we've always said about the entire season because injuries have been happening, it's the next man up. If that's me or some younger guys or anybody on our defense, we just have to step up, get comfortable and do our job." 

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