One for the record books

Let's face it. Playing for a program as storied as the Alabama Crimson Tide, it's not easy to get your name in the record books. <br><br>But Saturday night Demeco Ryans did something no other Bama player had done in a regular-season game: record 25 tackles.

Of course informed Bama fans will quickly point out that Lee Roy Jordan still holds the all-time record. Jordan's 31 stops versus Oklahoma in the '63 Orange Bowl is part of Crimson Tide lore. After that dominating performance Coach Bryant famously said "If they stay in bounds, Lee Roy'll get ‘em." But Ryans can now claim his own spot in the record books.

With the seasons getting longer almost every year, career and season records fall on a regular basis. But game records don't fall as easily.

When informed of his feat, Demeco Ryans was appreciative but reluctant to claim too much credit. "The record is great," he said, "but it still hurts to lose the game. It was a great effort by all of us.

A combination of size, speed and instincts, Demeco Ryans could be Bama's next great linebacker.

"The record is a great accomplishment. I'm proud to have it."

After reviewing the film, Bama's coaches credited Ryans with 24 tackles on defense and one on special teams. The previous record was 24 held by Wayne Davis vs. Texas A&M (1985) and Mike Hall vs. Clemson (1968).

Tide Head Coach Mike Shula commented. "24 (defensive) tackles was something," Shula said. "He was also involved in forcing one fumble, and he had a good block on (Anthony Madison's) interception return."

Ryans now leads the team with 63 tackles on the season, with 41 coming against two top-ten teams (Oklahoma and Arkansas).

"I didn't realize (I was close to the record)," Ryans said. "It was just all of us out there trying to win."

Ryans was one of only two true freshmen that played last season. Quickly after he arrived on campus the coaches realized that had something special.

"He's one of our most talented players on defense," Shula said of the sophomore ‘backer. "He's got the size and a lot of speed. Some of our other guys have one or the other. Demeco's got a combination of both."

Ryans works this season at weakside linebacker, but his coaches say he could handle any of the three linebacking positions. Freddie Roach is obviously more suited to middle linebacker, so he'll probably stay put on the inside. But with the graduation of Derrick Pope after this season, Ryans is a good bet to move over to the strongside where he played last year.

"Inside or out, it really doesn't matter to me," Ryans said.

With Arkansas running the ball constantly Saturday night, tackles were obviously going to come. Plus, two overtime periods added to Ryan's chances. Ryans' statistics versus the Razorbacks broke down to 13 solo stops and 12 assists, along with one forced fumble. He played in all but one snap on defense (87 of 88 plays). The game was Ryans' second double-digit tackle game of the season.

Though quite intelligent, Ryans is quiet--almost to the point of being shy--off the field. But during games his play speaks for itself.

"I really didn't keep track of how many tackles I had," Ryans said. "During the game I was just flying around, playing football, trying to do the right things and be in the right places."

Tide Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines also coaches linebackers, and he has praised Ryans throughout the season. Describing him as a "sho nuff football player," Kines talks about the youngster's remarkable knack for always being around the football.

"All of it is instinctive," Ryans said. "That's what being a linebacker is all about, having good eyes and great instincts."

Shula is just glad that Ryans is only a sophomore.

"He's just got to keep playing, and he'll only get better," Shula said. "I think Demeco knows he's got a chance to be very good."

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