T he 2013 Alabama linebackers are a group loaded with experience and talent. The Tide’s top two tacklers for 2012 and leader in tackles for loss bypassed the NFL draft, opting to return for another go. Both C.J. Mosley and Trey Depriest’s play will be important to just how good the 2013 Alabama defense can be. Combine Mosley and Depriest with Adrian Hubbard and a bevy top shelf depth, and this group will make Saturdays difficult for a lot of unlucky opponents this fall.
Preview: Alabama Linebackers
While not the largest specimen Alabama has seen at inside linebacker in recent years, C.J. Mosley brings to the table a high I.Q. and adept ability to play in space. Mosley won the Defensive MVP award in the 2012 BCS Championship Game, and led all Crimson tacklers with 107. The senior from Mobile’s Theodore High School plays with the kind of smarts Nick Saban builds championships around, and is the unmistakable leader of the Tide defense this season.
Mosley’s 107 tackles in 2012 came in part as a situational player, featured primarily in passing situations. Mosley now finds himself as the quarterback of the defense not out of necessity…goodness knows Bama has enough talent to field two units. Instead, his development as a player…a trait that Nick Saban has become known for…has transformed the gifted Mosley from being a diamond in the rough to becoming a first round diamond in next year’s draft.
Junior Trey DePriest joined the departed Nico Johnson and Mosely as an anchor in the middle last season. By seasons’ end, DePriest had become a heady playmaker in his own right. In his first career start against Michigan he notched 7 solo tackles, finishing the season with 56 tackles on the year. A broken foot in a spring scrimmage sidelined the Ohio native for the remainder of the spring, but DePriest looks to be ready to go in the fall.
If Kirby Smart and company decides to use a similar method of rotation this season from last, there are plenty of bodies to make it happen. Reggie Ragland possesses the physical prowess to plug the gaps, and simply finds himself in the midst of “the process” of player development. Senior Tana Patrick could be another option in this rotation, showing tenacity on the field, but showing the kind of dedication and commitment to the team concept that Nick Saban savors.
Probably the most talented of the bunch, Ryan Anderson has gotten his head coach’s attention with his sheer physicality. “He’s a thumper,” Saban said this spring of Anderson.
At outside linebacker, Alabama can look to Denzel Devall in 2013. He has already impressed players and coaches, being compared to Courtney Upshaw by Mosley and other teammates and coaches. This spring Devall won the Bart Starr Most Improved Player Award presented at the end of spring practice, as presented by the Alabama coaching staff.
As already mentioned, Adrian Hubbard will play a large role in 2013. Hubbard posted seven sacks last season along with 41 total tackles, and has the long Derrick Thomas-like features that make him very difficult to stop off the end. And once again, buried in the discussion is linebacker and defensive end in nickel situations, Xzavier Dickson. Last year Dickson had 5 tackles for loss, 33 total tackles and 3.5 sacks. But in uniform he could pass for defensive end Ed Stinson’s younger brother. At 265 lbs., Dickson is thick, big and quick.
At any other school on the planet, when discussing linebackers, the name Reuben Foster would have been at the beginning of the discussion. Foster walks into a linebacker’s goldmine, being given the luxury to absorb tutelage from the best defensive staff in America, not to mention seeing their teachings lived out around him. But even though the Tide is deep at his position, don’t be surprised if you see Foster on the field as a freshman. He’s that good, and would be the bonafide starter at inside linebacker at over half the other schools in the SEC. The highly touted Jonathan Allen of Virginia, Baton Rouge’s Tim Williams and Walker Jones, the youngest brother of Barrett and Harrison Jones, will join the group as well.
It’s hard to put into words the kind of talent Alabama has at this position. Describing the depth, and quality of depth at the position makes it difficult not to speak in superlatives. Just this past linebacker class alone would be enough to make any fan passionately optimistic. That Saban and company has stacked the last crop on top of the three before it is cause for downright jubilation.
The 2013 Alabama linebackers are talented, but filled with a healthy balance of youth and experience. It’s hard to argue with the idea that Nick Saban has created the perfect formula for building a team. And proof of his “process” for relentless success can be seen by looking no further than the Tide’s 2013 (and beyond) linebacking unit.
Thanks for reading our preview of the 2013 Alabama linebackers.
—Special to the Capstone Report by Josh Smith.