10 July 2008
| Brandon Fanney - #98 – LB – 6-4 – 241 lbs. – Morristown, TN – Hargrave Military Academy – 2 Varsity Letters
Brandon’s development could be a key for the 2008 Alabama defense. In Nick Saban’s
3-4 defense the Jack Linebacker is vitally important. The JACK is supposed to be the playmaker, for evidence of this see Jason Taylor’s
NFL Defensive Player of the Year season in 2006 from that position under Coach Saban
with the Miami Dolphins.
That type of playmaking was lacking during the 2007 season. Keith Saunders
started all 13 games at the position and logged the vast majority of the snaps there. Despite that he had just 33 tackles, none for a loss, and no sacks. Brandon got some time there, but in his limited action he recorded just 7 tackles.
The fact that, despite Saunders’ troubles to make plays, Brandon could not push his way into more playing time is a bit alarming. It is possible for players to make a huge leap during one off-season, and hopefully with the starting job seemingly his, Brandon has made that leap.
The scary part about the JACK position for Bama is that if Brandon has not made a significant leap forward, there are not many options behind him, and we could be in for another year of little playmaking out of a position that feeds playmakers.
As things currently stand Brandon is the presumptive starter at the position, with only Charlie Kirschman
and Alex Watkins
behind him, neither of whom has seen collegiate playing time. It appears as though incoming Freshman Courtney Upshaw
will get a first look at JACK, though the problem that he and the other 2 backups face is weight.
The JACK is a hybrid position, with the player filling the role of both outside linebacker and defensive end. At 218-230 lbs. the DE part of that just isn’t going to happen. Based on current published weights Brandon is the only one of these 4 above 230 lbs. and based on that alone he has a distinct advantage. Watkins
both have the edge in raw athleticism and potential to make plays, but they both need to add 20-30 lbs. in order to be physically ready for the position. Some reports are indicating that Upshaw
might already be near 240 lbs. If that is the case, things could happen rapidly for him.
As I said before, the fact that Brandon was unable to push Keith Saunders
off the field last year does not inspire me with great confidence in his ability to suddenly be a star at the position in 2008. With Bama’s frighteningly thin depth across the board at linebacker, there is not an option at another position that can move in to take over this role. It is essential that Brandon, especially early in the season, be able to make plays.
If he can not, and neither Watkins
(the only 2 viable candidates) can take the position from him, then Bama’s defense will likely rank near the bottom of the SEC in both sacks and tackles for a loss.