Inside Linebacker Positions Strong

In Alabama's 3-4 defense, the "4" is the number of linebackers. Although the Crimson Tide doesn't always (or even usually) set up in the 3-4 alignment, Bama does develop men for each of the four spots. Middle and weakside are the inside linebacker positions, while strongside and jack are the outside positions.

Here is a look at possible candidates for the two inside linebacker spots. It would not be at all unusual for there to be some differences in this look and what is developed on the practice field this spring, in part because linebackers are very close to interchangeable. Or, as Alabama Coach Nick Saban says, "a linebacker is a linebacker," regardless of designation.

Practice is scheduled to begin Friday, the day before the start of spring break. The second practice will be the day after spring break, Monday, March 19. Alabama will have 15 days of practice, including three scrimmage days, in March and April. The third and final scrimmage will be the public A-Day Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The A-Day Game will begin at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday, April 14, and will be televised by CSS.

Alabama lost one very high profile inside linebacker starter as middle man Dont'a Hightower, an All-America and Butkus Award finalist, decided to forego his final year of eligibility and enter the NFL draft. The Crimson Tide also lost a back-up in Chris Jordan, who completed his eligibility following Bama's 12-1 national championship season.

There are two men who rotated at weakside linebacker last year. Nico Johnson (6-3, 245, senior) was used primarily on run downs and C.J. Mosley (6-2, 234, junior) was often inserted on likely passing downs. Mosley suffered a dislocated hip after making an interception against LSU in the BCS National Championship Game, but has been working out and this week was cleared by the medical staff to be full speed for spring drills.

Johnson ranked fourth in tackles last season with 25 primary stops and 22 assists. He was in on seven tackles behind the line of scrimmage and had a sack. He also had an interception and broke up a pass and caused and recovered a fumble.

Mosley had 17 primary stops and 20 assists, including being in on five tackles behind the line. He had two sacks, an interception, and broke up two passes.

It is possible that Johnson could end up at one inside spot and Mosley the other.

Also in the inside mix will be one of the outstanding freshmen from 2011. Trey DePriest played both linebacker and special teams last year as a freshman. The 6-2, 242-pounder was in on 25 tackles, including two behind the line, and broke up a pass. had ranked him the number one middle linebacker prospect in the nation when he was signed in 2011.

Also in 2011, Brent Calloway (6-1, 217) was ranked as the state of Alabama's top prospect, primarily as a linebacker. Calloway, however, had also been a tailback at Russellville High School, and worked at tailback in a redshirt season last year. This spring Saban said that he would look at Calloway as a weakside linebacker, though the coach emnphasized that the move is not necessarily permanent.

One of the early enrollees in the class of 2012 is Dillon Lee (6-3, 238), who was a four-star prospect ranked as the nation's fourth best middle linebacker.

All-in-all, it's a strong and interesting group of candidates.

This is one in a series looking as Alabama football positions prior to the start of spring football practice.

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