Prior to last year’s Alabama game against LSU, C.J. Mosley had turned in 30 primary tackles and 29 assists. This year, his first as a starter, Reggie Ragland leads the Crimson Tide defense with 27 primary stops and 29 assists.
Ragland and his teammates have put together a 7-1 record including a 4-1 mark in Southeastern Conference games this year and now head into an important closing stretch that begins in Baton Rouge Saturday night. Bama and the Fighting Tigers will kick off at 7 p.m. CST Saturday with CBS televising the game.
Ragland had perhaps the most dramatic play of his junior season in Alabama’s last game at Tennessee when he blasted Vols quarterback Joshua Dobbs, forcing a fumble that flew high in the air and was recovered by Bama in the Tide’s 34-20 win.
Ragland downplayed the excitement of the moment.
“I didn’t know the ball was going that high,” he said. “I just knew I needed to make a tackle and the next thing I knew, the ball flew up out of his hands and went in the air. It was a big play for us.”
Ragland wouldn’t say it was his biggest hit.
“I don’t really know,” he said. “I just know I made a big play for our team to give us some momentum.”
The only “looking back” Ragland has done this week is think about his last trip to Baton Rouge, when he was a freshman playing on the kickoff team.
“You’d better be prepared and ready,” Ragland said. “It’s loud in there. They just added on (capacity is now 102,321, which is 500 seats more than Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium), so it’s even louder in there.
“It’s different from all the places I’ve been to. It’s the loudest place I’ve probably been besides Bryant-Denny. Yeah, it’s very loud and difficult.”
The LSU game is the beginning of the last one-third of the season. LSU is 7-2 overall and 3-2 in the SEC. Both teams are coming off bye weeks.
Ragland said a bye week could interrupt the flow of preparation because there is no game preparation. But, he said, in the bye week “you try to practice and stay healthy. If you keep the right mindset it won’t.”
Ragland said he could sense a change in the locker room “because it’s a big month for us. We’ve got to win out and we’ve got to be real efficient as a team the whole way through. If we do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll be fine.”
He said he has noticed a particular excitement among Alabama players from Louisiana. “It’s just like me for when we play Auburn. It’s a big game for them. They can’t go home without those bragging rights for 365 days.”
One of those he hears a lot about is his roommate, safety Landon Collins from Geismar. “We have to make sure we get that victory for him.” Expected to make a return to the Bama lineup this week after suffering an injury against Ole Miss is fellow linebacker Denzel Devall of Bastrop.
Ragland said Devall has been practicing for the past two weeks “and I know how he is. I have to keep him level headed because he’s crazy.”
Ragland went over the keys to playing defense against an LSU team with an excellent running game. He said it compared to preparing for Arkansas. “Both of them are big teams that love to run the ball,” he said. “You just have to strap up and be ready to play.”
Defending the passing game against the Tigers offers the problem of LSU being a zone read team. “You look at your keys and you notice some of the things that aren’t normally there when they’re running the ball, and just be ready for the pass.”
The problem is that it might not be a pass.
“They (quarterbacks) can run the ball,” he said. “The zone read is difficult at times and if you can’t contain them, they can really run the ball.”
To stop a mobile quarterback, he said, “You just look at the right stuff and just make sure you can contain them inside and everybody has to do his job to get that done.”
Being the Alabama leader in linebackers this year, he said, is “a little bit” of a surprise. That’s because men like safety Landon Collins and his fellow inside linebacker Trey DePriest “and all the other guys getting to the ball.”
Ragland, who has practiced with his hand wrapped this week, said it was just a little ding. It’s not something he’ll worry about in Baton Rouge.
By the way, Mosley had 12 tackles in Alabama’s 38-17 win over LSU last year.