TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — During Alabama’s first national championship run in 2009, middle linebackers like Rolando McClain, Dont’a Hightower and Nico Johnson all weighed north of 240 pounds.
That trend continued with last year’s national championship team. It featured inside linebackers Reggie Ragland and Reuben Foster, who both weighed 240 or more pounds.
This season, the group has slimmed down in hopes of being more agile when running sideline to sideline. That starts with Foster, the new leader in the middle of Alabama’s defense.
Foster said he is down to 225 pounds. He was 235 in the spring.
“I’ve slimmed down a lot. The game is getting faster,” Foster said. “I’m getting more lean, building more muscle and working on my speed, agility and footwork.”
For those wondering if Foster may have lost any of his physicality, think again. Foster’s face lights up when discussing how much better he can be at his new playing weight.
“I’m more explosive. It might sound strange to be 225 at linebacker, but it feels great,” Foster said. “My knees aren’t hurting. My back isn’t hurting. It feels great.”
Along with the physical toll carrying the extra weight took on his body, Foster struggled at times in pass coverage when isolated against a running back last year.
He and the coaching staff noticed his lack of ability to quickly change direction, and set up a plan for him to change things. Foster is eating healthier thanks to Amy Bragg, Alabama’s nutritionist.
Last year, Foster played in all 15 games and is credited with eight starts. He finished second on the team with 73 tackles (48 solo), including eight tackles for loss.
Foster mostly served as the inside linebacker in the Tide’s nickel package, which Alabama played the majority of the time.
Foster likely won’t come off the field much this year, which means he’ll have to take his game to an even higher level.
Some of his new responsibilities include putting the defense in the right position. If there’s an adjustment or a check to be made, it’s usually the middle linebacker who is in charge of making sure the defense is on the same page. Heading into his senior year, Foster has a complete understanding of the playbook.
“It feels great knowing that you know what to do,” Foster said. “You don’t have any anxiety. You feel free. You love the game of football, and you worship it. You can just line your boys up and get to playing.”