Editor's note: From now until the start of spring camp on March 16, TideNation will count down the 12 most intriguing players to watch on the Alabama football roster. Today we look at linebacker Reggie Ragland.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- A few days ago, TideNation turned its attention to rising senior C.J. Mosley, who is poised to become an every-down linebacker this season after earning All-American honors in 2012. His role is expanding because of the departure of former Alabama inside linebacker Nico Johnson, who is preparing for the NFL draft.
While many are looking forward to Mosley's progression as the clear-cut No. 1 at his position, including Mosley himself, there remains the fact that there was a reason he wasn't an every-down linebacker in the first place. He was more athletic and more productive than Johnson, yet he was pulled out in favor of Johnson often, especially in short-yardage situations. The reason: Mosley is relatively slight of frame for an Alabama linebacker. In fact, he's the lightest scholarship linebacker on the roster at 232 pounds. Johnson, at 245 pounds, was simply better built to handle the physical play when teams tried to run between the tackles.
Take for instance this past season's game against the very physical LSU Tigers: Johnson played a season-high 50 snaps and registered a season-high 12 tackles that night, while Mosley played considerably fewer snaps and came away with a then season-low four tackles.
Now that the bigger, bulkier option in Johnson is gone, there's a window of opportunity for another linebacker to fill his shoes. The player best equipped to do so might be rising sophomore Reggie Ragland. At 6-foot-2 and 247 pounds, he's perfectly constructed to stand up to power running games.
Ragland played in 11 games and registered eight tackles during his freshman campaign. The former four-star prospect was listed as the backup to co-No. 1 Mike linebackers Trey DePriest and Nico Johnson. Ragland was one of four true freshmen on the two-deep depth chart, joining cornerback Geno Smith, safety Landon Collins and linebacker Denzel Devall.
Head coach Nick Saban said during the season that he had "high hopes" for Ragland and awarded him special teams players of the week honors along with Collins for their work against Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
And like Collins, Ragland is poised for a bigger role in 2013. Johnson is gone, and one of Ragland's biggest competitors for playing time, Tyler Hayes, is no longer with the team. With a need for heftier inside linebackers off the bench, Ragland could be the perfect fit. He has Mosley in his corner, even if that means taking snaps away from the veteran linebacker.
"I hope the best for him," Mosley said. "Everyone has their chance, and freshmen step in and do great things. If he steps up and becomes a role player, I hope he does."