An intriguing trait of Alabama Football Coach Nick Saban is that he is never surprised by any development; or perhaps his ability is in convincing others that he is never surprised.
It was a surprise to many when the Crimson Tide’s star linebacker from 2014 elected to return for his senior season. Reggie Ragland, Alabama’s second leading tackler in a 12-2, Southeastern Conference championship season, decided to follow the lead of his middle linebacker predecessor C.J. Mosley and play for Saban for a fourth season before trying his hand in the NFL. It has worked out well for Mosley, who is a star linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens.
Ragland, 6-2, 252, said he doesn’t look back on his decision to return for a fourth season, even as he watches his former classmates, safety Landon Collins and tailback T.J. Yeldon, playing in pro exhibition games after leaving early. “I’m happy for those guys,” he said. “They’re doing what they’re supposed to do. They did that during the three years they were at Alabama. It’s up to me to do what I have to do in the next six months to show that I can play at that level.”
That proving time begins Saturday night in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, when Bama opens the season against Wisconsin. ABC will televise the game beginning at 7 p.m. CDT.
Wisconsin is expected to be a physical, run-first team that will challenge the Alabama defense. “We’re going to see what type team we are,” Ragland said. “We’re going to have to strike blockers and get up off them and make tackles. [Wisconsin] is a tough, physical team, so we’re going to see what kind of guys we have, including myself.”
He said he is impressed with the Wisconsin offensive front. “They come off the ball – flat back, have speed, and mow people out of the way.”
Even though the Badgers lost star running back Melvin Gordon from last season, Ragland said he is aware of Corey Clement, who was Gordon’s backup in 2014. “He’s a good back,” Ragland said. “He rushed for almost 1,000 yards even considering what Melvin Gordon did, over 2,500 yards. [Clement] is a good back. He’s quick, he can run, and he might run over you, so you have to bow up for him.”
Ragland is also aware of Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave. “He can pass, he can run, he can do whatever he needs to do,” Ragland said. “He’s a good quarterback who showed up last year.”
Ragland said he’s glad the season is about to begin and he thinks his defensive teammates are, too. “The guys are moving around, jumping, excited before practice, walking that certain walk,” he said. “I think the guys are going to be physical this year and it’s going to be a good year for us, I believe.”
One of the best is expected to be Reggie Ragland, who is big, fast, strong, and intelligent, and the leader of the Alabama defense.