SEC Country is breaking down each of Alabama’s position groups before the entire 2016 roster reports to campus.
Thursday, we take a closer look at the Crimson Tide’s linebacking corps, a group that is bringing back multiple players who could’ve left for the NFL this spring.
Names you need to know: Reuben Foster (senior), Tim Williams (senior), Ryan Anderson (senior), Rashaan Evans (junior), Shaun Dion Hamilton (junior), Keith Holcombe (sophomore), Christian Miller (sophomore), Anfernee Jennings (sophomore)
On the way: Ben Davis (freshman), Lyndell “Mack” Wilson (freshman)
Few 2017 NFL prospects are as hot as Williams right now. The end of this year’s event in Chicago opened the floodgates for next year’s projections, and Williams has clearly impressed analysts with his work for Alabama thus far.
ProFootballFocus.com listed Williams (10.5 sacks last year) as the nation’s most effective pass rusher during the 2015 regular season, and the hype train is now at full speed after several mock drafts placed him in the Top 10 of next year’s class.
“He wins with power, relentlessness and first-step quickness off the edge,” ESPN.com’s Todd McShay wrote earlier this month while projecting Williams as the No. 6 overall pick.
Foster — who’s replacing Reggie Ragland as the defense’s de facto leader — is no slouch in the NFL’s eyes, either. ESPN expert Mel Kiper, Jr., sang the inside linebacker’s praises earlier this year after the Crimson Tide star decided to return for another year.
“Reuben Foster gets from Point A to Point B faster (than Ragland) when I watch them,” Kiper said on a conference call in February. “When I look at comparison, I don’t think (Ragland) is as fast or as athletic as Foster. I think Foster, next year, will be a better prospect than Ragland is this year.”
The star of A-Day was Evans, who recorded 17 total tackles, 10 more than any other player on the field.
He contributed four sacks and 10 tackles last year, including two and three, respectively, against Clemson in the national title game. He has a lot of momentum heading into fall camp.
Another spring standout was Jennings, who racked up a team-high three sacks and six total tackles on A-Day. He and several others will ensure that this talented and deep group won’t miss Ragland a whole lot in 2016.
Key question: Can the linebackers stay healthy? Injuries appear to be the only thing that can slow them down.
Bottom line: SEC quarterbacks and running backs are not excited to face this group again.