Tide football combines practice and clinic
A focus for Alabama early in spring practice as been establishing leadership for the 2009 season. One of players that plan to step to the forefront is junior-to-be linebacker Rolando McClain. The Decatur, Ala., native recorded a team-best 95 tackles and 12 tackles for loss last season. He garnered third-team All-America honors while being named a finalist for the Buktus Award, given to the nation's top linebacker.
"I know I need to be more of a leader with Rashad gone," McClain said. "I was a little last year but I think my role has intensified some. I just want to lead by example as well as being more of a vocal leader. I do a good job trying to be vocal in practice. I mean, my play speaks for itself, I think. But I need to do a better job of keeping everybody intense and everybody up."
McClain also praised the abilities of his fellow linebacker Dont'a Hightower, who started 12 games at will linebacker last season as a freshman, but has also been practicing at jack linebacker during spring drills.
"Dont'a can play any position on the field," McClain said. "He's a freak to me. He's amazing. I can't explain it. I'm sure I can't do certain things he can do and the way he just takes it and they move him to jack one day and back to will the next day, he's doing a good job. He's just going with it. If we need him to play jack, he can play jack. Or whatever. We're not worried about it."
High school coaches from around the region that are taking part in the 2009 Alabama Coaching Clinic were also on hand for Friday's practice following a speech from former UA great Ozzie Newsome.
The approximately 1,200 high school caches attending the coaching clinic will also hear from legendary Nebraska football coach and current Huskers' Athletics Director Tom Osborne on Friday evening. Other speakers at the 2009 Alabama Coaching Clinic includes Derek Dooley, Jason Garrett, Stan Hixon and several of the region's championship-winning high school coaches.
Newsome addressed the media briefly following his presentation to the coaching clinic. He touched on why it was important to him to come back to Tuscaloosa to speak to this collection of high school coaches.
"I think there were two reasons," Newsome said. "A friend called – Nick (Saban) – and said he would like for me to come down and share and be a part of his clinic. And the second part is to show my appreciation for high school football. That is where I got my start at. I wanted to let those coaches know that they do make an impact and they have a chance to make a difference in a young man's life."
The opportunity to take in his first Crimson Tide practice in 20 years was also a big selling point for the legendary tight end. Newsome started four years for the Tide (1974-77) and was a unanimous first-team All-America selection in 1977. He was voted to Alabama's Team of the Century and was the Tide's Player of the Decade for the 1970s. Newsome recorded 102 receptions during his career for 2,070 yards and 16 touchdowns.
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