Updated with more information at 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 28, 2019
Alabama junior inside linebacker Dylan Moses, the Crimson Tide's leading tackler last season and the quarterback of this year's defense, sustained a knee injury during Tuesday's practice that will require surgery and sideline him for the year.
Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban discussed the sizable setback during his appearance on Wednesday's Southeastern Conference teleconference.
"Certainly this is a character check for our team," Saban said, "and we're going to do everything we can to support Dylan and the people who have the opportunity now to fill in for Dylan."
Alabama is already without fifth-year senior inside linebacker Joshua McMillon, who had his own serious knee injury during the team's first preseason scrimmage, and likely will face Duke on Saturday afternoon with a starting tandem of freshmen Christian Harris and Shane Lee. Harris has been practicing with the first team since McMillon's injury.
"Christian Harris has had an outstanding fall camp and has been running with the starting unit, and Shane Lee will have the opportunity to play now," Saban said. "We have several other linebackers who are competing at the position, and we're pleased with what those guys can do.
"It's going to be something that our coaches, myself included, try to support these guys and put them in the best position that they can have success."
Harris is a 6-foot-2, 244-pounder from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, while Lee is a 6-foot, 246-pounder from Burtonsville, Maryland. Alabama's second-team inside linebackers during Wednesday's portion of practice that was open to the media were sophomores Ale Kaho and Jaylen Moody.
A five-star signee in the 2017 class, Moses broke into the starting lineup late in his freshman season but missed Alabama's run to that season's national championship due to a foot injury that happened in a practice for the Sugar Bowl semifinal against Clemson. In his debut start against Mercer, the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder from Baton Rouge tallied 11 tackles, four tackles for loss and an interception, which helped cement his spot on the SEC's All-Freshman team.
As a sophomore last season, Moses amassed 86 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He was a Butkus Award finalist, but now his play-calling chores will fall on someone with much less experience in that realm.
"We try to get these guys prepared every day, because they know they're always one play away from having to be in the game," Saban said. "Fortunately, for the guys we have as backup linebackers, they have been good students of the game and have really tried to prepare themselves the right way.
"Sometimes guys who aren't playing have a hard time focusing, but Shane Lee and Christian Harris are both bright guys who have been very engaged in what they have to do to be able to go play. There is no substitute for experience, and now they're about to get some of that."
Saban was in no mood to respond to reports that running backs Najee Harris and Brian Robinson missed a recent team function and would potentially sit out the first half against the Blue Devils.
"What happens on our team internally is an internal family decision that I don't feel is necessary to share with anybody outside our organization," Saban said.
Robinson released a message Wednesday via Twitter, posting, "One mistake doesn't define you. How you respond to it shows your true character!"
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