Terrell Lewis, one of Alabama's top pass rushers, suffers torn ACL

Alabama linebacker Terrell Lewis (24) reacts after nearly intercepting a pass in the second half of the Sugar Bowl semi-final playoff game against Clemson for the NCAA college football national championship, in New Orleans, Monday, Jan. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

One of Alabama’s better pass rushers suffered a serious injury last week.

Nick Saban announced Tuesday that outside linebacker Terrell Lewis underwent successful surgery after tearing the ACL in his right knee while training last week. The timetable for his return, Saban said, is “unknown at this time.”

What does Terrell Lewis’ injury mean for the Alabama defense?

On the heels of his first career start in last year’s College Football Playoff title game, Lewis, a 6-foot-5, 256-pound junior, was projected to have a big role on the Crimson Tide defense in 2018. As he showed with a career-high seven tackles and a big sack in overtime in the dramatic national championship win over Georgia, Lewis was expected to wreak havoc as an edge pass rusher, particularly on passing downs.

But this is Alabama, so there is plenty of talent at linebacker to fill the void created by Lewis’ injury. Seniors Christian Miller and Jamey Mosley and junior Anfernee Jennings all return with plenty of experience under their belts, but none quite have the explosiveness of Lewis. The Tide also have a slew of underclassmen who were highly-rated recruits, including four-star Chris Allen and five-star Eyabi Anoma, who recently arrived on campus.

Terrell Lewis suffered a serious injury last year, too

In the 2017 opener against Florida State, Lewis tore a ligament in his elbow. He was initially ruled out for the season, but was able to return to the field for the final three games of the season. For the season, Lewis totaled 16 tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack.

That sack was a big one. On third-and-six, Lewis came screaming up the middle and got to Jake Fromm, forcing a 13-yard loss and a UGA field goal to open overtime. That opened the door for the Tide to win the title with Tua Tagovailoa’s touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith.

As a true freshman in 2016, Lewis played in 11 games as a reserve and finished the year with 11 tackles and one sack.

Could Lewis return during the season?

Maybe, but probably not. The recovery for a torn ACL varies. We’ve seen some guys come back in six months, but those seem to be pretty rare cases. Some players need closer to a year to return to full strength.

From Lewis’ perspective, the timing could not be worse. He had surgery on July 10. Six months from July 10 is January 10, which is three days before the College Football Playoff title game.

Lewis’ return in 2018 seems unlikely. But, remember, if he does come back, he could still take a redshirt. A new NCAA rule allows a player to appear in up to four games and still take a redshirt year.

A bad week for Alabama linebackers

Lewis is the second Alabama linebacker to make the news this week. The other was for a much different reason, however.

VanDarius Cowan was dismissed from the program Monday, a few days after he was arrested for assault. Cowan, a sophomore, is accused of punching a man at a Tuscaloosa bar.

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