When Reggie Ragland met with the media this week, the subject of Dalvin Tomlinson came up. “He’s a very physical guy,” Ragland said. “One of those guys you don’t want to mess with, on the field and off the field.”
These days Tomlinson is a 6-2, 287-pound defensive lineman for Alabama, but that’s not the only sport where the junior from Henry County High in McDonough, Ga., has been prominent. In high school he was a two-time state heavyweight wrestling champion.
Ragland said, “Any time someone says something about fighting, he’ll say, ‘You know, I’m a state champ.’ I say, ‘Okay, you got it. I don’t want to do no tusslin’ with you.”
Those wrestling days are behind Tomlinson now. He was a regular in the defensive line rotation last year, after having been redshirted in 2012 and missing most of the 2013 season with a knee injury. He was in on 22 tackles last year, including six for lost yardage, and had two sacks and two quarterback pressures for Bama’s Southeastern Conference championship team.
Ragland said that Tomlinson is valuable in part because of his versatility. “He’s one of those guys you need,” Ragland said. “If somebody goes down, the coach can put him right in one of those defensive lineman spots. He’s good, a smart guy, physical and tough.”
Ragland said that Tomlinson looks even better this spring, showing no ill effects of the knee injury of 2013. “You can tell it in his demeanor,” Ragland said. “You can tell he’s more agile. He’s moving it. He doesn’t wear a knee brace like he used to. You can ell he looks more comfortable out there, playing and ballin’.”
Tomlinson concurs. “I’m 100 per cent better,” he said. I feel as if I never got hurt. It bothered me a little bit (last season) because we played a lot of games on (artificial) turf. The more we played on the turf, it flared up a little bit, but not much.”
Tomlinson said that spring practice is going well. Bama is about halfway through drills, headed towards the second scrimmage on Saturday and the A-Day Game that will conclude spring drills on April 18.
“We’re just trying to push to finish out better than we did last year,” he said. “We’re looking pretty good because we’re all jused to each other and we’re all pushing each other trying to to spread around the experience that we share.”
Tomlinson said the Sugar Bowl loss to eventual national champion Ohio State still haunts him. “I think about it pretty much every day,” he said. “We’ve been built on stopping the run, so that’s one of the main focuses this year – to make sure no one can run the ball on us this season.”
Tomlinson sees the defensive line to have a different look this year. “In certain packages, we use players in different positions,” he said. “I feel like I can be a universal person. You could put me at the end or at nose if you need to in pass rush situations.”
Tomlinson said that experienced depth makes for good practice and good competition. “We like competition,” he said. “That’s how we are on the D-Line. We’re pretty tight, because we all know each other, and we try to help each other improve.”
Competition within the defensive line is not the only competition. Bama is rebuilding its offensive line this year after having lost three starters, and Tomlinson is impressed. “They’re looking pretty good so far,” he said. “We go against them every day. They compete just like anyone else that was there before. They give good competition.”
Tomlinson said he thinks the theme for the 2015 team is “We want to finish, because the last two seasons we haven’t finished the way we wanted to.”