Saleem and the NFL?

Saleem Rasheed, a first-round draft choice for the National Football League? <br><br>Well, maybe not this year. <br><br>But give him time.

As Defensive Coordinator Carl Torbush said today, "Our goal--my goal for him right now is to get himself in the position where he'll be a first-round draft choice next year."

In addition to his duties as coordinator, Torbush is also handles linebackers for Alabama. And the veteran coach always has a lot of good things to say about Rasheed.

After all, what's not to like?

Rasheed has posted 280 career tackles in his 34-game career (bowl games are not counted in career stats). Good enough to rank him seventh among Bama's all-time tacklers--57 away from first place--with one season of eligibility left.

Of course for Tide fans, the more important message is that Torbush believes his star linebacker will be back. "As far as I know, we've got everybody coming back on defense," he said today.

With his senior season left to play, Saleem Rasheed needs only 58 tackles to take over first place on the all-time Bama list from Wayne Davis (‘83-'86).

Tuesday evening at 6 pm, Torbush and the other Tide assistants conducted the first team meeting of the semester. Rasheed and Kindal Moorehead were both in attendance. And both rising seniors are enrolled in class and working out with the team. "Of course Friday is the deadline (to apply for early admission to the NFL)," Torbush commented. "But hopefully, that's not going to happen. So far as I know right now, we're counting on all of (our players) coming back."

Every college football player in the nation dreams of one day taking his game to the National Football League. And Rasheed is no exception. But the opportunity to learn his position from one of the top linebacker coaches in the country is undoubtedly a factor.

In Torbush's 12 years as defensive coordinator at North Carolina, the Tar Heels had six defensive players earn All-America honors and 41 All-ACC selections. For 11 consecutive years while Torbush was at North Carolina, every starting linebacker for the Tar Heels but one earned an opportunity to play in the NFL.

When it comes to evaluating defensive talent, Torbush obviously knows what he's talking about. And he thinks Rasheed can get even better. "Saleem should be a pre-season All-American--and very deservedly so," Torbush said. "I think he's had three very good years."

After earning Freshman All-SEC and SEC Freshman Defensive Player of the Year honors his first year of college football, Rasheed was voted a Playboy All-American before the 2000 season. Some pundits labeled his second year a ‘sophomore slump.' But during a supposed down season, the Birmingham native still managed 81 tackles, good enough for fourth on the squad.

"When you're not playing very well as a team, sometimes your two or three marquee guys get all the blame," Torbush explained.

This past year Rasheed totaled 115 tackles, the sixth-best season in Tide history. Rasheed posted 72 solo stops, seven tackles for a loss (-14), three sacks (-3), five passes broken up and two caused fumbles.

In addition, Rasheed holds all four weight-lifting records for Tide linebackers: hang clean (365), bench press (475), incline press (410) and squat (580). And of course he still has all of spring and summer of this year to raise those marks even higher.

Assuming continued progress and no bad luck injury-wise, Torbush is convinced 2002 should be a great year for Rasheed. "If we play as well as we need to, then he should be deserving of as many honors as he can get."


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