We’ll examine the position today, even though the spring won’t settle the depth chart. Even with experienced, talented players back to fill the four positions, top recruit Reuben Foster will arrive in the summer, and he has the potential to shake up the backup picture.
As you’ll see when he puts on a crimson jersey, he really is worth all the fuss.
Inside linebackers ready for spring: C.J. Mosley, senior; Tana Patrick, senior; Trey DePriest, junior; Reggie Ragland, sophomore; Dillon Lee, sophomore; Ryan Anderson, redshirt freshman.
Outside linebackers ready for spring: Jonathan Atchison, senior; Xzavier Dickson, junior; Adrian Hubbard, junior; Denzel Devall, sophomore.
Linebackers coming in the fall: Reuben Foster, freshman; Walker Jones, freshman; Tim Williams, freshman.
Outlook: Providing everyone remains healthy, Alabama will have a solid first team this year.
First-team All-American Mosley and rising star DePriest played a lot in 2012 and return to man the two inside spots. As for the two outside positions, Dickson and Hubbard are returning starters.
All four are excellent players, especially Mosley. His goal this year is to prove he can be an every-down linebacker. Last season, he sometimes came out in obvious run situations, with then-senior Nico Johnson filling an inside linebacker spot.
But now, with Johnson having graduated, Mosley will get a chance to play in every situation. As the reigning team most valuable player (as voted by his teammates), Mosley is up to that challenge.
On the outside, Hubbard returns after considering heading to the NFL. He led Alabama last season in tackles for loss (11) and sacks (seven).
As for the backups, there is some talent and not much experience. Injuries hampered Ragland last year during his true freshman season, but if he stays healthy, he could join the playing rotation on the inside. He is a terrific athlete who was a prospect for major college basketball as well as football out of high school.
Devall, also a freshman last year, got more playing time as the season went along. He is a top-notch pass rusher and will push Hubbard and Dickson for playing time on the outside.
Among the freshmen, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Williams has a chance to help either at outside linebacker or defensive end. You’ll see publications list him at either position. He seems better suited for outside linebacker, at least at the beginning.
Foster should help at inside linebacker immediately and probably special teams, too. He is fast and a good open-field tackler. DePriest proved himself as a freshman by playing special teams, and Foster could do that, too.
Foster might remind fans a little of Rolando McClain, who was a rangy linebacker who turned into one of the best Alabama ever has had.
Sports Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter @MarkSportsStar.