"I think my speed last year was a weakness," Freddie Roach said yesterday. "I wasn't as fast as most linebackers due to my weight. Right now in our workouts I'm focusing on my speed."
After finishing a grueling afternoon workout, sprinting full out on the Alabama track, Roach paused to speak with BamaMag.com. "I've lost 13 pounds since spring. I'd like to play next season right at 235 pounds. That would be great."
"You saw me running hard today," he finished with a laugh. "That's why I'm about to fall out now."
Like the rest of the Tide players, Roach spent spring practice getting used to the new coaching staff. Fortunately for him Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers Coach Joe Kines will continue to handle the same duties under new Head Coach Mike Shula.
When spring practice ended, coach and player discussed what Roach needed to do in the off-season to improve. "We talked about my foot speed and my speed in general," Roach recalled. "That's why I'm out here busting it every day. I'm trying my best to get faster.
"In this league anything can happen. I could get hurt tomorrow or somebody could step in and take my spot. But if I go down, I'm going to go down trying."
An 11-game starter at middle linebacker in 2002, Freddie was the Tide's sixth-leading tackler with 63 total stops. He had six tackles behind the line for 17 yards and one quarterback sack for four yards. He forced two fumbles, recovered one, had five quarterback pressures and returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown against Middle Tennessee State.
For his efforts Roach was named Freshman All-SEC, the SEC Freshman Defensive Player of the Year and a Freshman All-America. But according to the Killen native, fans saw "too much" of him in 2002.
He explained, "At 253 pounds I was too heavy. I couldn't move as well as I wanted to. I got on a strict diet after spring practice and lost some weight. I weigh 240 pounds now, but I'd like to get down to 235. I'm trying to improve my speed."
Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Ben Pollard identified Roach as a player he plans to give individual attention to this summer. Specifically, the big linebacker wants to improve his first step, adding to his explosiveness toward the ball. "I think I move fairly well, but my foot speed isn't as quick as I'd like," Roach said.
With a goal to lose down to 235 or below, should he worry about getting moved to the outside?
"I'm strictly a middle linebacker," Roach stated firmly. "I could play outside, but in this defense I'd rather stay in the middle. I played outside a little bit in high school, but I didn't like it too much. Middle is what's for me."
Despite sharing time with Derrick Pope for most of the season, Roach finished with 63 tackles, sixth on the team in that category. "I don't necessarily have any goals as far as statistics," Roach said. "I think the work I'm doing now in the summer will take care of that. (What I'm doing now will) make it that much easier to make plays next fall.
"As long as we win, the stats don't matter to me."
Recent events will force many members of the Tide team to adjust to yet another position coach, but thankfully Roach and his fellow linebackers remain comfortable. Noting Kines' history of sending athletes to the NFL, Roach wants to learn as much as he can the next few seasons.
"Coach Kines got a lot out of me this past spring," Roach said. "I plan on continuing to listen to him. Who knows where I'll be in five years."