Jordan May Start At Weakside
Although Hightower started just three games last year, he is listed as a returning starter by Alabama. And even though he was the starter at weakside linebacker, all comments regarding his 2010 expectations have him moving into the middle linebacker spot vacated by Rolando McClain.
Bama's first effort to replace Hightower had Cory Reamer moving from strongside linebacker, Eryk Anders going from jack linebacker to strongside, and Courtney Upshaw moving into the lineup at jack.
As had been the case when Alabama found itself shuffling its offensive line in the Sugar Bowl game at the end of the 2008 season, the changes in the linebacker corps could have weakened several positions.
Alabama had a tough time of it when Andre Smith was declared ineligible two days before Bama's Sugar Bowl game against Utah two years ago. The Tide moved left guard Mike Johnson to left tackle and inserted a back-up left guard. When Johnson was injured early in the game, the Tide was playing with back-ups at two offensive line positions and had a disastrous game (though not all because of offensive line play).
Alabama next moved to a nickel alignment with Robby Green the fifth defensive back and no weakside linebacker.
A few games later, Nico Johnson became the only true linebacker to start in the rebuilt 3-4 after the injury to Hightower. But that lasted only for the South Carolina and Tennessee games.
It was back to a nickel alignment with Green starting against LSU and Marquis Johnson starting the final five games of Bama's national championship season.
Not too much should be made of where a player works during spring practice, but general consensus was that Nico Johnson was more of a back-up at both inside positions, middle and weakside. Hightower (6-4, 258) is a sure starter, and probably at middle linebacker (which is also the signal-caller position).
And at the end of spring practice, Chris Jordan seemed to be the number one weakside linebacker.
Jordan (6-3, 232) moved from running back to linebacker two years ago and backed up McClain last year at middle, although most of his playing time was on special teams. He can play both spots and came out of spring practice number one at Will.
Though Johnson (6-3, 238) is ostensibly the heir apparent at Will after being the number one man at the position following Hightower's injury, Johnson could be the back-up at both Will and Mike. He was Freshman All-SEC last year.
Last year Tana Patrick (6-3, 231) was able to redshirt. He has long been considered to have star potential at an inside linebacker spot.
Anyone who saw spring work, including the A-Day Game, had to be impressed with two newcomers.
Jalston Fowler (6-1, 236) was recruited as a running back after being ranked a Scout.com four-star and the number two fullback in America. Early in spring practice, Coach Nick Saban said they were looking at Fowler as a linebacker. In the A-Day Game he looked like a natural-born defender.
Also impressive in the A-Day Game was another freshman, former "grayshirt" Petey Smith (6-1, 250). It's hard to imagine these two not being contributors at inside linebacker spots this season.
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