Before the break, Alabama senior inside linebacker Reggie Ragland said “I’m going to stay in shape. Some guys go home and do things they're not supposed to do. You know how they do as college students. Everybody wants to have fun. For the most, sometimes it's good and sometimes it's not good. It depends on each guy going back and do the things they've got to do."
Ragland knows something about “going back,” or, perhaps more accurately, “coming back.” It was something of a surprise when the 6-2, 259-pound weakside linebacker from Madison announced that he would pass up the NFL draft and return to Alabama for his senior season.
Ragland had an all-star type of season as a junior on Bama’s Southeastern Conference championship team, and was first team All-SEC. He was a semifinalist for the Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker last year and will be on watch lists for several defensive awards this year.
In 2014 he was second on team with 95 tackles behind Landon Collins with 103; third with 10 ½ tackles for loss for 27 yards. He had one quarterback pressure, one interception – a leaping pick over the middle against Texas A&M – and broke up three passes. He recovered team-high three fumbles and caused one.
Prior to spring break, Ragland was asked why he returned. He said, "I wanted to come back and get even smarter for the game, because I know at the next level, if you're not smart playing on the inside, you're not going to last that long. So I wanted to come back and learn more from Coach Saban, and Coach Smart, and all the defensive guys that we've got coaching."
Head Coach Nick Saban had a bit of a shake-up on the defensive side after losing two linebackers coaches. He has moved Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart from safeties to inside linebackers.
Ragland is good with the change. He describes Smart as a high energy coach “and that’s what I need.” The linebacker said that he enjoyed being coached by Kevin Steele (who left Bama for the job of defensive coordinator at LSU), “but I know Coach Smart, him being the defensive coordinator, I know whatever he wants to call, he's going to be in my brain and I'm going to pick his. I'm going to know what he wants to run on third down and I'm going to know it before he knows it. It's very good to have the defensive coordinator working with you.
"You can always improve on adjusting to seeing the formation calls and maturing, that's the main thing. You've got to be able to mature because it's ain't no game; you've got to be a grown man out there and each year there's something that you're going to see different. I know for me going out there now, this spring practice, I saw stuff that I haven't seen since I've been here. I'm getting better every time I go out there."
Alabama’s practice Monday afternoon will be the second of 15. Spring training concludes with the lone public showing of the Tide in the A-Day Game on April 18 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.