Torbush breaks down his linebacking corps

With the start of fall practice barely two weeks away, this is as good a time as any to take an in-depth look at Alabama's linebacking corps. The unit will sport talent and depth, and position coach Carl Torbush is especially pleased with his two returning starters. <br><br>"To look back and see the difference in Brooks Daniels (Rover) and Cornelius Wortham (SLB) from the first time I was around them till today is absolutely amazing," Torbush said.

"I saw two seasoned, veteran, outstanding football players out there this spring," Torbush continued. "They understand the game better. They know what the scheme is now. They don't just do what we tell them to do, how we tell them to do it. Now they understand why. They've got great work habits and are mentally and physically tough.

"Those two are without a doubt the complete package."

Cornelius Wortham has built himself into an impressive physical specimen since arriving on campus.

Both Daniels and Wortham have been weight-room warriors during the summer months. After totaling 102 tackles last season, the slightly undersized Daniels has worked to add bulk. And sporting one of the most impressive physiques on the squad, Wortham is up to a rock-solid 235 pounds.

Of course results on the football field are what it's all about, and Torbush is confident in his twin junior starters. "They're exactly what I enjoy about coaching," he explained, "because they're going to bring everything they've got every day. Both are warriors. They're going to fight, and they're not going to quit. They're great leaders. They give everything they have."

Back in January when Saleem Rasheed declared early for the NFL draft, there were obvious concerns about the middle linebacker position. But redshirt freshman Freddie Roach calmed those fears in the spring, and a junior-college All-American will join the fray in the fall.

"Right now I'd be cautiously optimistic about middle linebacker," Torbush said. "Granted, we lost Saleem. But I really like where Freddie Roach can be. Freddie could have come in and helped us the last four or five games last year. I expect him to be a very solid linebacker, but of course he's not proven yet."

"And we've got a junior college linebacker coming in that we think can be really good," Torbush continued. "We won't know for sure until practice starts. But he's definitely going to have playing time."

Junior Rover Brooks Daniels deserves all-conference consideration.

Derrick Pope arrived in Tuscaloosa this past June, to finish up some academic work and get a head-start on his conditioning. The beginning of two-a-days will tell the tale, but in voluntary workouts Pope has impressed observers as an outstanding athlete.

"I've told the other guys that what (Pope) wants to do is beat somebody out," Torbush said. "It's going to make them all better, because everybody is going to fight to keep their starting job. Derrick came this summer, which will help him get mentally sharp. That's what he'll have to work on, getting his terminology and all that stuff down.

"He could play several positions, but he'll likely be mostly an inside player."

Also capable of playing inside or out, Jason Rawls is back after rehabbing from off-season knee surgery. "If Jason can come back healthy, he's got the tools," Torbush said. "He's not as tall as you'd like, but he's got the confidence."

Overall, 2001 was not a particularly strong year for high school linebackers, but the Tide signed three players who should now contribute as redshirt freshmen: Freddie Roach, Mark Anderson and Juke King.

Derrick Pope should quickly earn a spot in the playing rotation.

July a year ago King was slated for strong safety, but after months working in the Bama weight room he's now listed at strongside linebacker. "Juke King made a lot of strides," Torbush commented. "Juke is still trying to figure a lot of it out, but academically and work-habit wise he's doing well."

Originally signed as a defensive end, Mark Anderson is now working at Rover. "The one that intrigues me right now is Mark Anderson," Torbush said. "He's got a knack for getting to the quarterback. Mark can be a big-time Rover."

Torbush concluded, "Those two with Freddie Roach included, we recruited those guys and we'd recruit every one of them again. All three of them are going to eventually graduate from The University, which is a great asset. All of them are going to be quality people off the field. And all three of them are going to play football here. Those three are in good shape.

"Those are the kind of guys you want in your program."

Ideally Torbush would like to be three-deep at every linebacking slot. But failing that, several athletes capable of playing different positions can get the job done. Torbush explained, "You'd like to have extra guys that can play inside or out. Cornelius and several of those guys can play inside if we need them. Of course when we got to our nickel defense, they do that anyway.

True freshman Demeco Ryans has excellent potential.

"What you'd like to have is Freddie and Pope inside, and then you've got Mark and Jason backing up Corn and Brooks on the outside. And Juke playing some at strongside."

In discussing his athletes working at linebacker, Torbush was careful to give recognition to some hard-working walk-ons. "Guys that deserve to be mentioned are Brandon Dean, P.J. Fletcher, Brad Biehl," he said. "They've been around here a long time."

Several talented true freshman linebackers will be arriving on campus this fall, including Juwan Garth, Chris Browder, Greg McLain, Earnest Nance and Demeco Ryans. Browder and McLain will probably end up at different positions. And in any event, barring injuries all the true freshman are most likely headed for a redshirt season in 2002.

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