Ragland Learning, Getting Faster

When a college football team has the first of its three allotted scrimmage sessions during spring football, the objective of the first scrimmage is obvious. Which players have knowledge enough of the schemes to play fast without benefit of direct instruction from the coaches.

Alabama had its first scrimmage last Saturday, and Crimson Tide linebacker Reggie Ragland said, "I felt like I did all right on some things. I did real good on some, and some things I didn't do good. I played a little bit faster than I normally do. I'm still trying to get a nice grasp of it, but I'm getting a grasp of the defense."

This Saturday will bring up the second scrimmage. Ragland said he was spending part of this week watching video of the first scrimmage. As for the second scrimmage, he said, the goal is to "just keep learning and playing faster."

The third and final scrimmage will end spring practice – the annual A-Day Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on April 19. That is the only practice open to the public.

Ragland is a 6-2, 257-pound inside linebacker (although he's getting some situation work on the outside) who has been behind All-America C.J. Mosley the past two years. Mosley has moved on, and Ragland hopes to fill that gap in 2014.

Ragland has been expected to provide big things for the Bama defense. Coming out of Bob Jones High School in 2012, he was a five-star prospect who was ranked number one in the nation at middle linebacker and the number nine overall prospect regardless of position.

He has had some success. As a back-up linebacker and/or special teams player he has seen action in 24 games over the past two years and has made 11 tackles and assisted on 14 others.

Now Ragland sees an opportunity. "Since C.J.'s gone, it's time for me to step up and become a leader of the defense," he said. He said there has been no frustration being stuck behind the 2013 Butkus Award winner. "It didn't frustrate me at all," Ragland said. "I knew I had two years to learn behind the best, and I did.

"At first it was hard going, trying to get a grasp of it, but now it's better. I understand it more than I did the last two years."

Although he's still considered one of the inside linebackers – middle or weakside – he is also seeing action at outside linebacker (strongside and jack) in special situations. "I'm becoming more of a pass rusher," he said. That involves him being either a stand-up linebacker who moves around or a man in a three-point stance working off the edge.

He likes that. "Oh yeah," he said. "Just find a way to get on the field more."

Pass rush has been a priority with Alabama Coach Nick Saban this spring as he's trying to get more pressure from the defensive ends and nose tackle. "It doesn't change what I have to do," Ragland said. "I have to do my part."

His part includes something he learned from Mosley. "Being vocal and making sure you know what to do," Ragland said.

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