March 7th: Quarterbacks (click here to read it)
March 8th: Running backs (click here to read it)
March 9th: Wide receivers (click here to read it)
Sunday: Tight ends/H-Backs (click here to read it)
Monday: Offensive Line (click here to read it)
Yesterday: Defensive Line (click here to read it)
Today: Linebackers/Pro Day
Saturday: Opening day of spring practice
After the 2011 season, Alabama had two linebackers, Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw, taken in the first 35 picks of the NFL Draft and lost another to graduation, Jerrell Harris. Yet another national championship later, the Crimson Tide is set for a similarly-loaded linebacking corps.
It starts with C.J. Mosley, the soon-to-be senior that decided to forego a rather promising NFL Draft position to stay for one more season. Mosley had very similar numbers to Notre Dame linebacker and Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te’o.
Alabama also has returning starters in Adrian Hubbard, Trey Depriest and Xzavier Dickson. The trio combined for 133 tackles and four forced fumbles. Hubbard led the team in tackles for a loss with 11 and sacks with seven. Depriest added four tackles for a loss while Dickson added five with 3.5 sacks.
Replacing Nico Johnson in the rotation will be the alrgest task for the Tide’s linebacking corps this season, and many options present themselves. Last year, Denzell Devall saw his playing time increase as the 2012 season, his freshman campaign, progress forward. Dillon Lee’s freshman season had a similar trajectory before his suspension from the BCS National Championship Game for breaking curfew.
Other options include Tana Patrick and Reggie Ragland, both of whom saw limited action defensively last season but did play larger roles in special teams. Ryan Anderson, the other player sent home from Miami early for breaking curfew, redshirted last season and is now available to contribute.
Alabama has two recruits entering the program at this position, but neither will be in spring practice as early enrollees. The Reuben Foster saga landed in Tuscaloosa after Foster signed with the Tide on National Signing Day. Alongside Foster will be Walker Jones, the younger brother of both Barrett and Harrison. Walker is the only one of the three brothers to play on the defensive side of the ball.
Breakdown: Two seniors (Patrick and Mosley), three juniors (Depriest, Dickson and Hubbard), three sophomores (Ragland, Lee and Devall), one redshirt freshman (Anderson) and two true freshmen (W. Jones and Foster, neither in for the spring).
Prediction: Depriest, Mosley, Hubbard and Dickson are no-brainers for the coaching staff in their starting spots, with healthy splashes of Devall thrown in. Lee, Ragland and Anderson will be competing for a 6th spot of sorts, while the other two will be relegated to special teams assignment or late-game situations in blowouts.
Usually, freshmen that do not early enroll do not have much of a chance at playing immediately in an important role, but Foster and Jones are the exceptions. Foster’s talent had him ranked as the No. 1 linebacker in the nation by certain experts and Jones’ ties to the program should make his transition as seamless as possible. One of these two freshmen could steal the show in the fall, much like Devall did last year.