Upshaw Striving To Be Bigger Part
Much has been made in analysis of Alabama football that the Crimson Tide will have new starters at nine positions in 2010. As Nick Saban has pointed out, the Bama team that won the 2009 national championship with a 14-0 record is not the same team that opens this season on Sept. 4 hosting San Jose State.
Most expect one of those new starters to be Courtney Upshaw at the jack linebacker position. Last year he worked both at jack behind Eryk Anders and at strongside behind Cory Reamer. He was on the field with Anders late in the BCS National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena last January with the Tide holding a three-point lead. Texas had the ball. Anders broke through and forced a fumble, which Upshaw fell on. Alabama went on to a 37-21 decision.
So while Upshaw, a 6-2, 263-pound junior from Eufaula, will be a new starter, he is not inexperienced. He had one other particularly memorable play in 2009 when he picked off a fumble caused by Rolando McClain against Kentucky and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown.
"Most of the guys who are going to be filling in this year have been here a while," Upshaw said prior to the start of Sunday's Fan Day practice. "We've been working with the ‘Twos' for the past couple of years. Basically, is someone was to go down, we had to be ready to step up.
"Now we are the go-to guys. We think we are ready."
Upshaw said that Fall camp "has been going good. We're just working to get better. I'm trying to step up to be a leader. I'm trying to improve – be a bigger, better part of this team."
Upshaw said that everyone on defense has a job to do and that the coaches work tirelessly to make sure that the job is done right. "Before you get here, you are just expected to make plays (at the high school level). Here, they demand that you do the technique right, and you're going to do it until you get it right.
He said that defenders have to "keep contain, fill this gap, control your block, get off your block, and make the play."
Upshaw has empathy for young players like Alfy Hill who are candidates for playing time at jack linebacker. "I can relate to what he's going through, getting yelled at for maybe the first time in a long time.
"With Coach Sal (outside linebackers coach Sal Sunseri) getting yelled at is part of the process. Everybody's going to get yelled at. I just had to realize that I'm going to get yelled at and I've got to fight through it and move on to the next play.
"We're all working. It works out for the best."
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