This is an opinion piece.

While everyone is excited about the return of Dylan Moses and Joshua McMillon to the Crimson Tide defense in 2020, as they should be, I would like to make a case for another defender as Alabama's "X-factor" in returning to the elite form we have all come to know and love.

DJ Dale, sophomore defensive tackle out of Clay-Chalkville High School in Birmingham Alabama will be the key to a successful 2020 defensive campaign. How can a player who notched only 17 total tackles last season be that vital to the overall success of the defense?

By examining the Nick Saban defensive scheme and looking back through his tenure we can see how important the nose tackle is to the Alabama defense. From Terrence Cody to Josh Chapman to Jesse Williams, Jarran Reed and Davlin Tomlinson the Crimson Tide has always had a tough, run stopping, defense when the nose tackle is a position of strength for Alabama.

While not exclusively playing nose tackle for Saban many others such as Marcell Dareus, A'Shawn Robinson, Daron Payne and Quinnen Williams also spent time in this key position for the Tide.

The nose tackle eats up blocks in the run game, primarily allowing the linebackers to freely attack the ball carriers and become defensive playmakers. Last season Dale won the job as a true freshman but was slowed by lower body injuries beginning in the fourth game of the year. Dale battled his ailments most of the year but was forced to miss the final three games of the year. Given time to rehab his injury and spending time with the new strength and conditioning team of Dr. Matt Rhea and David Ballou should see Dale prepared to take the next step on the Alabama defense.

Should Dale's game take a step forward in the 2020 season his numbers may not improve drastically, but his effectiveness will, which will allow Moses, McMillon, Christian Harris and Shane Lee to maximize their production.