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2013 Breakdown: Linebackers

The strength of the University of Alabama’s 2012 recruiting class was at the linebacker position. The Crimson Tide signed five linebackers in the class, four ranked in the ESPN 150, but before it ever inked the 2012 class, the UA coaching staff landed the top linebacker in 2013, Reuben Foster. The nation’s No. 2 prospect committed to Alabama last summer at the Tide’s camp, but it wouldn’t stick. Last week, Foster flipped his commitment to Auburn, leaving Alabama searching for a linebacker in this year’s class. The position is not a priority for the Tide because of the talent they brought in last year, but they would like to add depth this year. At this point, Alabama has one commitment from Jonathan Allen, who is expected to play Jack linebacker when he gets to Tuscaloosa.

Jonathan Allen - Ashburn, Va.

Allen, the lone commitment at linebacker, has gone a bit under the radar for an ESPN 150 recruit. He committed to Alabama in May, choosing the Tide over the Florida Gators, and since then, there hasn’t been much fanfare. Listed as a defensive end, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound prospect is at his best when he’s rushing the quarterback, and that’s why the UA coaching staff likes him at the Jack linebacker position. He may be somewhat undersized for now, but he has the frame to add mass and shouldn’t have any trouble doing so when he gets into Alabama’s weight program. Allen has the potential to blossom into a dynamic pass-rusher for the Tide.

Matthew Thomas - Miami, Fla.

Because of where he’s ranked and his talent, Thomas was thought to be the guy who made people forget about Reuben Foster in this class if he chose Alabama. However, the two play different positions. While Foster would’ve played inside in the Tide’s 3-4 defense, Thomas looks more like a strong side outside linebacker or Sam linebacker. Still, landing the four-star would be a huge pickup for Alabama. He’s explosive off the ball and athletic enough to cover the entire field, and he’s also full of untapped potential. At The Opening earlier this month, Thomas said Alabama and Florida State were his two favorites, but don’t count out Miami yet either.

Kendell Beckwith - Jackson, La.

If Thomas is the most talented linebacker Alabama is still going after, Beckwith is a very close second. The ESPN 150 athlete plays quarterback for East Feliciana High School, but the UA staff likes him as a linebacker at the next level. Which linebacker spot is anybody’s guess. At the Tide’s first prospect camp in June, Beckwith worked out at three different positions where he got a chance to rush the quarterback, fill the gap up the middle and also drop back in coverage. It’s that versatility that has the Alabama coaches drooling over the chance to land him. From the beginning, it’s been a two-horse race between Alabama and LSU, but neither team has an edge at this point.

Walker Jones - Germantown, Tenn.

Jones is a name Alabama fans are already pretty familiar with. Walker’s oldest brother Barrett just won the Outland Trophy last season, and his other brother Harrison will be a sophomore tight end this year for the Tide. Will Walker follow their path to Tuscaloosa? He hasn’t made a commitment just yet, and for now, he’s enjoying the recruiting process. But with the loss of Foster, Alabama could use the 6-foot-3, 234-pound inside linebacker in this year’s class. He has a good combination of strength and speed, and he’s considered a punishing tackler. He has a slew of other offers, but it’s hard to think the Tide aren’t the team to beat in this one.

Shaun McGee - Snellville, Ga.

McGee broke on to the recruiting scene this spring when he made the transition from defensive end to linebacker. The Alabama coaching staff saw him work out for the first time at linebacker in June when he was in town for the Tide’s first prospect camp. He did so well, he walked away with a scholarship offer. At 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, he has the size and strength to play inside where he can fill the gaps and excel at stopping the run. On Friday, McGee earned another major offer from Georgia after an impressive performance at UGA’s Dawg Night. Now, it’s Alabama and Georgia who have emerged as the favorites, and a decision could be soon on the way.

Trey Johnson - Lawrenceville, Ga.

Alabama hasn’t given up its pursuit of Johnson, an Auburn commitment, and Crimson Tide fans would especially enjoy it if they could flip the ESPN 150 linebacker after what happened with Foster. Johnson committed to Auburn last August, but he’s expressed interest in other schools, mainly Alabama and Georgia. He visited UGA on Friday for Dawg Night, and there’s a chance he makes the trip to Tuscaloosa this week for the Tide’s camp.

Other options: Daniel McMillan (Florida commitment), Melvin Jones (LSU commitment)