DeMeco Ryans is the latest linebacker to leave the Alabama football team, a proud graduate with perhaps more honors than any man ever to play for the Crimson Tide. And that takes in some great, great players.
(Middle linebacker Freddie Roach has also graduated, but that's a story for another day.)
Ryans didn't have statistically as good a year in his senior season as he had in a couple of other years, but it doesn't take a genius to understand that opposing teams didn't really want to run at the All-America strongside linebacker. Still, Ryans was Bama's leading tackler with 76 with 16 of them tackles for lost yardage (58 yards). He also had five sacks for 43 yards in losses. Ryans had a pass interception, two pass break-ups, four quarterback pressures, one caused fumble, and two fumble recoveries. That's a lot of defense to replace.
First in line to take over the linebacker spot manned so well by Ryans is upcoming senior Terrence Jones. Jones, who just had to go a few miles from Tuscaloosa County to The University, has lettered in each of his three previous Alabama seasons.
In last year's 10-2 Alabama season, Jones recorded 31 tackles, including a career-high eight stops against Utah State. He also had a tackle for loss and was in on a sack and had three quarterback pressures. Jones had three multi-tackle games. He missed three games with an ankle injury.
Jones, 6-1, 220, played in every Bama game as a sophomore in 2004. He was in on 18 tackles, including one for lost yardage, with a best game of 41 snaps and six tackles against Western Carolina.
In 2003 he was the only true freshman to play in every game. He had 35 snaps against Arkansas. He was in on 11 tackles.
Behind Terrence is virtually zero college experience unless Demarcus Waldrop (a 5-11, 190-pound back-up weakside safety) gets some time at strongside linebacker.
Two redshirt freshmen and a true freshman are penciled in on the depth chart behind Jones at strongside linebacker. (Strongside refers to the strong side of the offense, usually the side with the tight end.)
Zach Schreiber, 6-2, 240, a redshirt freshman from Shreveport, Louisiana, finished spring practice as the number two strongside linebacker.
The number three man at the position is redshirt freshman Eryk Anders (6-2, 220) from Spring Branch, Texas.
Schreiber was a linebacker in high school. There were projections by recruiting analysts that he would move to defensive end, but Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula said he was recruited as a linebacker and would stay at linebacker.
Anders was a defensive lineman in high school and has spent the past year learning to play the linebacker position.
One signee, Charlie Higgenbotham (6-0, 210) of Mountain Brook High School in Birmingham, is projected as a strongside linebacker.