24 June 2008
With today's alarming news about Jimmy Johns
, Alabama's Linebacker situation is becoming dire.
I was not one who believed that Jimmy was going to be a major contributor
this season, but he was an experienced college football player - something that Bama will severely lack at the position this fall.
At the moment Bama has 15 scholarship players at the position. Even given Bama's 3-4 set, at first glance 15 guys to man 4 spots seems like an abundance. That's at first glance.
At the moment Bama has only 10 active players at the position. Zeke Knight
is inactive due to health issues and Prince Hall
has yet to be officially reinstated from his suspension. The other 3 players (Don'ta Hightower, Jerrell Harris
& Courtney Upshaw
) will be incoming freshmen.
Let's look at each position individually:
- There are currently 4 players at this position, and a total of 1 returning lettermen (Brandon Fanney
). Backing him up are redshirt Sophomore Charlie Kirschman
, who has yet to see the field, redshirt Freshman Alex Watkins
, and incoming Freshman Upshaw
. While Fanney has earned 2 letters, he's also totaled a whopping 7 career tackles and 2 QB Hurries. That's it for the entire position.
- There are technically 3 guys at this position if you count Hall
. Otherwise you are looking at Rolando McClain
, a returning Freshman All-American, and Charlie Higgenbotham
, who has been a good special teams contributor. All 3 of these guys have lettered and have played well at times. So this position should be in good shape.
- The really scary one. Currently Bama has Baron Huber
, a converted fullback, Jennings Hester
, a redshirt Freshman, and incoming freshman Hightower
. There is a chance that McClain
could end up here if Hall
is reinstated. It is also possible that Jerrell Harris
could begin his career here. The best bet is that Cory Reamer
ends up back at this position, and likely starts.
- With 5 guys listed here, this position has the most depth. But that's deceiving, to say the least. One of those listed is Zeke Knight
who I don't believe will be back. Another is Reamer
, who I believe will be moved to the WILL. So that leaves Chavis Williams
, who played decent in a few spots last year, Eryk Anders,
who has totaled 4 tackles in 2 years of limited playing, and incoming freshman Harris.
All of that above should lead to one word - YIKES!
As things stand right now my guess for the starting 4 against Clemson is Fanney
at the JACK, with McClain
at the MIKE, Reamer
at the WILL & Williams
at the SAM. That would give Alabama an extremely untested and unproved linebacker corps, with only McClain
having had any real in-game support.
The one ray of hope is the expected talent of the incoming freshmen. All 3 guys are expected to be able to contribute, and by the middle of the season, we could be seeing a lot of them.
needs to gain at least 15 pounds from the 218 he reported in the spring to push for time. The JACK position presented very little play-making last season, and if he can gain the weight, his skill-set is perfect for the position.
is the highest rated player coming in, and early reports from summer drills indicate that he is physically ready - he's got 9 weeks for the mental part to get there.
is an imposing physical specimen at 260 lbs, but not a lot has been said about his early work. Reamer
could possibly make for a decent 2-headed monster at the WILL, with Reamer
specializing in pass coverage and Huber
specializing in run stopping. But Bama needs someone who can do both, and if Hightower
can demonstrate that ability, he'll get early playing time.
There are potentially 2 wild cards in the mix for Bama, with 2 other signees projected as guys who could play linebacker. Mark Barron
spent the 2nd half of last season there, though he seems destined for Strong Safety at Alabama. And Chris Jordan
has the size and athleticism of a linebacker, but was told he would get a first look at RB. Rumors indicate that he has worked some of the LB position in 7-on-7 drills, but he hasn't played the position competitively since his Freshman season in HS.
Having said all of this, Nick Saban
is a defensive genius. He also has on his staff 2 of the nation's best linebacker coaches Kevin Steele
and Lance Thompson
. These guys got more of last year's defense and linebackers than most could have imagined. Whether they'll be able to do it again is the real question mark.
From a pure raw talent standpoint they will have way more to work with in 2008. But the absolute lack of experience is downright frightening.
's defense doesn't work without plays coming from the LBers. So it is vitally important that Bama find some way to craft together an effective unit.