New Men Will Play Outside Linebacker

Several years ago, Alabama Assistant Coach Lance Thompson was developing Courtney Upshaw and Jerrell Harris, among others, to play the outside linebacker spots – jack and strongside -- for the Crimson Tide. Following some unlikely developments, Thompson is back, but Upshaw and Harris are gone.

As Alabama begins spring practice, Bama will have both a new position coach in Lance Thompson and new players at the two outside linebacker positions in the Crimson Tide's 3-4 defense. Jack linebacker Courtney Upshaw earned All-America and was a Butkus Award finalist and is expected to be a high NFL draft choice. He was the BCS defensive MVP as the Crimson Tide won the 2011 national championship. Jerrell Harris was the strongside linebacker, who saved perhaps his best game for the 21-0 romp over LSU in the BCS National Championship Game. Alabama also lost 2011 senior back-up linebacker Alex Watkins.

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.

Before Sal Sunseri left the Crimson Tide staff to go to Tennessee as defensive coordinator (prompting the return of Thompson to Coach Nick Saban's Bama staff), Sunseri was asked about the replacement for Upshaw at the jack linebacker position that is part linebacker, part defensive end. He said he was looking forward to working with Adrian Hubbard.

Hubbard is a 6-6, 237-pound sophomore who saw action in nine games last year and was in on nine tackles, including two for loss.

Xzavier Dickson, a highly regarded sophomore who played primarily on special teams last year as a true freshman, will also be in the mix at jack. Dickson (6-3, 240) played in seven games and was in on three tackles, one behind the line of scrimmage, and also had a sack.

One of Alabama's 2012 enrollees is 6-3, 248-pound Ryan Anderson of Daphne, The four-star prospect by was ranked as the nation's 22nd best defensive end, but said he had been recruited by Alabama to play the jack linebacker position.

Strongside linebacker is primarily a position used in expected run play situations. As such, the strongside linebacker has to be able to handle pass coverage assignments if he wants to be on the field as a player when Alabama goes to nickel or dime coverage.

Two juniors who have been in back-up roles the past couple of seasons are expected to battle at strongside linebacker. They are Jonathan Atchison (6-3, 240) and Tana Patrick (6-3, 236). Atchison saw only limited action in two games last season. Patrick played in 10 games and was in on seven tackles.

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

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