Fall Camp Preview – Linebackers
The linebacker position is the best example of the depth and athleticism on the Tide’s roster. The LB corps’ only loss from last season to this season was Nico Johnson and, while Johnson was a terrific leader, the kids who will be filling in for him will be bigger, stronger and faster. It’s kind of ridiculous just how much talent the Tide has at this position. Here’s what we said in the spring preview regarding this position. Now let’s take a look at where things stand going into fall camp.
Adrian Hubbard – 6’6, 248 Junior: Hubbard checks in at #43 on Daniel Jeremiah’s top 50 college player rankings and to some that may seem way too high. Most feel Hubbard has underachieved so far but Hubbard did lead the team in sacks and tackles for loss last season. He also led the team in QB pressures which sometimes can be more effective than a sack. The spring was good for Hubbard and he continues to progress. Look for him to increase his stats from last season and even move up from the #43 spot.
Ryan Anderson – 6’2, 252 Redshirt Freshman: It appears that, as good of a Jack LB as he is, Ryan Anderson is moving inside. The former 5 star certainly has the ability to play the position (and he showed that ability during A-Day) but it has always seemed his best position was “sick ‘em!” Look for Anderson to move inside, paving the way for Jonathan Allen and/or Tim Williams to come in and play quite a bit at Jack. For what it’s worth, Allen’s ability is making people around campus drool. Tidesports’ Andrew Bone said Allen is the best Jack LB Saban has recruited so far at Alabama…
Anthony Orr – 6’4, 258 Junior: Orr was rarely talked about during spring drills so it’s unlikely he’ll get much playing time at any of the LB positions outside of mop up duty.
Newcomers: Jonathan Allen, Jonathan Allen, Jonathan Allen. At 6’3, 264 running around a 4.6 or so, Allen will be used a LOT in the rabbits package. He should be the biggest true freshman contributor on defense by far. Additionally, Tim Williams is a highly regarded OLB but at this time he’s a tad undersized for the Saban scheme at that position. It will be interesting to see if Williams, who is a 4 star and stands 6’3 and 230 but looks thinner than that, works himself into the rotation or if he’s redshirted in order to allow him to bulk up a bit. He may also find himself at the other OLB position and, if so, he’d definitely need to bulk up.
CJ Mosley – 6’2, 232 Senior: Mosley is the most important (and arguably the best) player on Alabama’s defense, particularly against the spread. Mosley wore a black “no contact” jersey during the spring so we couldn’t tell how his transition to an every down LB was going. Remember, Nico Johnson played the “thumper” role and Mosley came in for nickel, dime and longer yardage situations. That being said, Mosley’s stock is expected to skyrocket and he’ll likely become yet another first rounder for Saban.
Trey Depriest – 6’2, 242 Junior: Depriest was injured last season so it appeared that he’d regressed since his freshman year. Truth is, Depriest is expected to finally be healthy this year and he likely will remind you of what he looked like as a freshman. Depriest is good against both the run and pass and is as versatile as they come at the LB position.
Tana Patrick – 6’3, 236 Senior: Patrick had a pretty good spring by most accounts and this season the senior is expected to fill the role of the linebacking Swiss Army knife. Patrick has practiced or played at virtually every position at LB and with this being his senior year we look for Patrick to play some key minutes as a substitute and in short yardage packages.
Reggie Ragland – 6’2, 247 Sophomore: I love this kid. He’s as athletic as anyone we have at the position and he looked pretty decent during the spring. This is another kid who will play some key minutes as a sub this season and could possibly jump Patrick if he continues to show he’s got the defense down pat…
Newcomers: Reuban Foster, anyone? He’s a beast, plain and simple and he’ll be worth every ounce of pain that he’s caused you during his recruitment – yes, he’ll even be worth the pain you’ll get when you see AU on his forearm. The ONLY thing that could get in his way would be to not be able to learn the scheme. Otherwise, he’s the best defensive player I’ve ever seen in an all-star game with the lone exception of Jadaveon Clowney. He’s certainly the very best LB I’ve seen. Expect Foster to be a big time special teams contributor as he learns his way around the MLB position.
Denzel Devall – 6’2, 243 Sophomore: This relatively unsung signee burst onto the scene last year as a true freshman as he provided the speed rush that the defense was lacking. Naturally, more is expected out of Devall and he used the spring to catapult himself into a starting role. The reason Xzavier Dickson was moved to DE was because Devall is simply too good to take off the field. We think he’s poised to be a big time contributer this season.
Xzavier Dickson – 6’3, 262 Junior: Dickson spent much of the spring at defensive end in part because Nick Saban wants to put as much athleticism on the front line as possible and in part because Denzel Devall in simply better than Dickson. That being said, Dickson is still a valuable player and his ability to float from OLB to DE will allow Nick and Kirby Smart to show multiple looks from the same personnel grouping. So, while it appears Dickson has lost his spot to Devall, his work this spring showed that he’ll still be a very valuable chess piece on Smart’s defensive board.
Dillon Lee – 6’4, 240 Sophomore: After getting himself dismissed from Miami before the National Championship, Lee REALLY needed a good spring in the worst way. I was very impressed with him during the A-Day game as he broke up several passes and seemed to always be around the ball. Lee will surprise some with his athleticism and his ability to play pass coverages and once again appears to be ready to garner more playing time in the fall. Of course, it’s likely that if he makes another off the field mistake, Dillon may be grillin at a restaurant near you. It’s a big year for Lee.
What we said in Spring: “All four LBs return at the deepest position on the team.” That’s a heck of a statement right there. And, now with five stars like Jonathan Allen and Reuben Foster coming into the fold, the LB roster looks like a who’s who of the top recruits at this position over the last three years. The athleticism of this group is mind-boggling. While Upshaw, Hightower and McLain were each 250/260 lb behemoths, this LB corps comes in a little lighter (240s) and much, much faster. Again, as we’ve mentioned in other write ups and emails, Saban himself has admitted that he’s been seeking out more quick twitch athletes to compete/counteract the spread offenses. This group is the epitome of what he’s talking about – they’re real and they are spectacular.
Fall Camp Previews