TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama's already short-handed linebacker group must absorb two more big blows.
The top-ranked Crimson Tide lost starter Shaun Dion Hamilton for the season after he had surgery on his right knee, and key backup Mack Wilson is likely out for four to six weeks with a foot injury, coach Nick Saban said Monday. It leaves one of the nation's best defenses relying on replacements heading into a stretch run that starts Saturday night at No. 18 Mississippi State.
"I don't think this is something that anybody should sit around and say, 'Wow, I'm going to have to pick up my game now,'" Saban said. "I think everybody should have been picking up their game to start with. Everybody has to be who they are and do what they do and be a good teammate, support the players that are out there, play together as a unit, do their job. That's the way we need to go about it."
Thanks for the prayers!! pic.twitter.com/jXUehY19A2
— Shaun Dion Hamilton (@shaundion11) November 5, 2017
Both were hurt in Saturday's 24-10 win over LSU. It leaves a bigger void at a position that has seen five linebackers miss games with injuries.
The Tide lost Terrell Lewis (elbow) and Christian Miller (biceps) to season-ending injuries in the opener against Florida State.
Alabama, which is second in the College Football Playoff rankings, did have some positive injury news. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick will miss practice Monday with a left hamstring injury, but Saban said he could return for some work on Tuesday.
Hamilton is one of the defensive signal callers and is tied for second on the team with 40 tackles. It's his second straight season to end early; he injured the same knee last year in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
Fellow linebacker Rashaan Evans said Hamilton is not "just a great athlete but a great person, and his loss definitely devastated us.
"And we've got a lot of great athletes right now that can fill in his role and get us back to winning football," Evans said.
Alabama's defense has held up just fine so far. The Tide leads the nation in scoring defense and pass efficiency defense and ranks second in total and rushing yards allowed.
But Hamilton is the biggest loss so far because of his experience and knowledge of Saban and coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's defense.
"Shaun Dion has a tremendous amount of experience," Saban said. "He's a great competitor. He's tough. He's probably one of the smarter players that we've had around here in my time being here in terms of being able to make adjustments, being able to make calls."
The latest injuries will mean more playing time for players like Keith Holcombe and freshman Dylan Moses, one of the nation's top recruits.
Wilson had 21 tackles and three interceptions. He wrote Sunday on Twitter that his "surgery went great" and that No. "30 will be back soon."
Alabama has road games with the Bulldogs and No. 10 Auburn, with a game against Mercer in between. A matchup with No. 2 Georgia in the SEC championship game would await if the Tide wins out.
Losing the linebackers just makes the challenges bigger.
"I think coming in, that was one of our deepest linebacker corps that we've had and just to have it be hit like that, it's tough but you know it's part of the game," Tide guard Ross Pierschbacher said. "We're going to still have to go out there and play with the guys that we've got. Kind of next-man-up mentality."