McClain Named National Player
Rolando McClain has already been named Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Week. Now the Football Writers Association of America has named the Alabama middle linebacker the national defensive player of the week. The FWAA will present the Bronko Nagurski Trophy later this year to the nation's best defensive player.
McClain, a 6-4, 258-pound junior from Decatur, registered a game-high 12 tackles (eight unassisted) picked off a pass, forced a fumble and recorded a pass deflection in Alabama's 38-20 victory over Kentucky in Lexington. McClain's forced fumble led to a 45-yard touchdown return by Courtney Upshaw that gave the Crimson Tide a 21-6 halftime lead. Then, his 21-yard interception return on the first possession of the third quarter set up another Alabama touchdown. And, his third-quarter pass deflection resulted in an interception that led to a field goal.
On Monday, McClain met with Alabama sportswriters and said it was far from a perfect game as far as he was concerned. "I missed two tackles and I had two missed assignments," he said.
Part of the problem, McClain acknowledged, was that he may have been trying to do too much to take up some slack for Bama having lost sophomore inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower to a knee injury. He also said that he didn't expect to get too much criticism from Alabama Coach Nick Saban.
McClain said in his first week as a freshman that Saban "yelled at me, but then he stopped." In a meeting in Saban's office, the coach said he didn't feel a need to yell at McClain because McClain was berating himself.
On Monday, Saban said, "He is very smart. He has got great knowledge and understanding of football. He's got great knowledge and understanding of what we do. He does a great job of implementing it in a game, in terms of his performance as well as the leadership that he provides for others. He's got good ability. He's got the skill to execute the things we need him to do at his position. He is a very motivated guy. He's got a tremendous desire to succeed and be as good as he can be and he's got the discipline to carry it out and usually plays his best in the biggest games. That is always something you like to see in great players."
One thing Alabama does that is different than many teams is practice first team offense against first team defense, the best way to simulate game conditions. Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy was asked about practicing against McClain.
"Rolando is a fantastic talent," said McElroy. "Week-in and week-out, the best defensive player we go against is number 25 on our team. He's also a great leader. Our team is much better because of him."
McClain said, "I expect to make plays. Sometimes when I'm watching film I even surprise myself at some things I do. For that, I have to give thanks to Coach Saban. A lot of guys have size and speed (he's been clocked ain the 4.6 range), but we can always be better."
This week McClain and his teammates will be in Oxford to take on the Ole Miss Rebels in a key SEC game. Kickoff will be at 2:30 p.m. CDT with CBS televising the game. Alabama is 5-0 and ranked third in the nation. Ole Miss is 3-1.
"They are a great team," McClain said of the Rebels. "They have a very good quarterback, a sound running game, and they are very effective."
McClain will be added to the 2009 Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List. The Bronko Nagurski Trophy will be presented to the best defensive player in college football on December 7 by the FWAA and the Charlotte Touchdown Club at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina. Five finalists for the Nagurski Trophy will be announced in mid-November.
Each week during the 2009 season the FWAA All-America Committee will select a national defensive player of the week from nominations made by the 11 Division I Bowl Subdivision Conferences and major independents.
Last season, Texas end Brian Orakpo won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy during the 14th season the FWAA has named a national defensive player of the year.
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