Alabama Has Best Linebacker Corps

When the Alabama Crimson Tide football team takes the field against the Virginia Tech Hokies, they'll be facing a Tech team that loves to run the ball. Alabama opens the 2009 season on Saturday, September 5, against Virginia Tech in Atlanta at 8 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. central) on ABC-TV.

The Alabama defensive line's job will be to slow down the Virginia Tech runners as much as possible, allowing the linebacking corps to fill run gaps and make plays. If the Tide is successful, chances are Bama will open its season with a win in the Georgia Dome for the second year in a row.

This story originally appeared at

Rolando McClain entered the University of Alabama as a member of the 2007 Tide recruiting class. It was Nick Saban's first signing class at Alabama, one that he'd had a little over a month to put the final touches on after being hired.

The Tide were somewhat thin at the linebacker position, and considering Saban's desire to run a 3-4 defense, getting a player of McClain's stature and ability was a real plus. He would later prove to be the cornerstone around which Saban would build the best linebacker group in the country headed into the 2009 season.

McClain played as a true freshman and was perhaps the single most dominating defensive player on the field despite his inexperience.

One AFC scout in town doing some draft evaluations made the comment that despite McClain's age, he was already the best linebacker in the SEC.

0 That says a lot.

It was Saban's second class, and first full one at Alabama, that brought in the pieces he would use to build around his cornerstone McClain. Dont'a Hightower was one of two prototype 3-4 linebackers netted in this class, with Jerrell Harris being the other.

There could have possibly been three, but Devonta Bolton was sidetracked to a junior college. Chris Jordan signed as an athlete in the class but was later moved to the linebacking corps, where he offers invaluable depth behind McClain.

Eryk Anders doesn't have great size or speed but he makes up for it with a ton of heart and a motor that absoloutely never quits.

It was last year's class, though, that rounded out the current group of linebackers with such speed merchants as Nico Johnson and Jonathan Atchison, as well as hard-nosed middle linebacker type Petey Smith and Tana Patrick.

Johnson had proven himself in all-star competition when some of the top skill players in the nation were unable to get past him. Johnson covered the field, sideline to sideline, impressing all those who watched the game.

Quite honestly, there is not a scarier, more talented group of linebackers in the SEC or, for that matter, the entire country. How successful they are in the coming 2009 season will depend directly on how quickly some of the newcomers acclimate themselves to what Saban and staff are trying to do once fall practice starts.

If, for instance, Hightower is freed up to move to the Jack position by one of the incoming freshmen proving himself capable of playing the Will position, then all bets are off as to how good this group could be this fall.

Whether a Smith or Patrick is ready to step in and take on a starting role remains to be seen, but even if they're not, they appear to be physically ready to provide quality depth both on defense and special teams.

Returning Linebackers

Cory Reamer

Jerrell Harris

Chavis Williams

Rolando McClain

Chris Jordan

Courtney Upshaw

Dont'a Hightower

Charlie Higgenbotham

Eryk Anders

Alex Watkins


Nico Johnson

Tana Patrick

Petey Smith

Jonathan Atchison

Editor's Note: From time-to-time we use articles from For more articles on Alabama at go to

BamaMag Top Stories