Before it has even kicked off its first game, Alabama is dealing with a couple of injuries that have the potential to be major for Nick Saban’s squad in 2019.
On Saturday, linebacker Joshua McMillon, a projected starter, suffered a right knee injury during a scrimmage and will need surgery. McMillion is a fifth-year senior and was slated to start at inside linebacker. Saban confirmed the surgery on Monday, saying McMillon will be sidelined for an “indefinite period.” Reports on AL.com said that McMillon might miss the entire 2019 season.
“We have a great medical staff here, and he will have the full support of everyone in the organization as he goes through the rehab process,” Saban said in a statement. “We are confident Josh will make a full recovery.”
McMillon had 14 tackles and one tackle for loss in 10 games played in 2018. With McMillon sidelined, sophomores Ale Kaho and Markail Benton are expected to compete to win the starting job next to Dylan Moses on the interior. The Crimson Tide does have outside linebackers Anfernee Jennings and Terrell Lewis returning. Lewis missed 2018 with a knee injury.
Loss of Depth
Saban also confirmed that running back Trey Sanders will require surgery as well. Sanders, a true freshman, suffered a foot injury in Thursday’s practice.
Sanders will be “out indefinitely,” according to Saban, though some reports have him sidelined for the season because of the injury.
Sanders was the No. 2-ranked running back prospect in the country for 2019 and was expected to provide some depth for the Tide. Sanders, a 6-1, 214-pounder from Port Saint Joe, Fla., had been doing well prior to his injury, getting praise from Saban.
“Trey Sanders is doing really, really well in camp,” Saban told reporters previously. “His work ethic is really good. He’s learning every day. His attention to detail seems to be pretty good. He’s got some ability that may be able to contribute to the team.”
Alabama lost NFL draftees Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris, who were drafted in the first and third rounds, respectively, in the NFL draft this past spring.
Najee Harris is the team’s leading returning rusher, having put up 783 yards on 6.7 yards per carry. He’s expected to be the main ground gainer for the Tide, though junior Brian Robinson Jr. (272 yards in 2018) and freshman Keilan Robinson are expected to get some time in the backfield as well.
Alabama has also been hit by a knee injury to defensive tackle D.J. Dale, who is expected to be out for a week with a sprain. Moses also sat out a couple of practices recently, allowing younger players to get some reps.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys playing out there,” Saban told reporters. “So it’s an opportunity for a lot of those guys to get a lot of work. But they’re also young players that probably don’t have good enough knowledge and experience right now to have enough confidence to go out there and do it and execute with any kind of consistency. All we care about is this is where they are, and this is what we need to do to fix them.”
Alabama opens the 2019 season with a non-conference game against Duke in Atlanta on Aug. 31.