Alabama Crimson Tide: Ryan Anderson

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- For some members of Alabama's 2012 signing class, success came swiftly.

T.J. Yeldon burst onto the scene in the season opener against Michigan, becoming the first player in school history to rush for 100 yards in his debut. Amari Cooper had his first career reception in the same game, but waited until Week 6 to get his first start at wide receiver. And what did he do? The former four-star prospect set nearly every rookie receiving record at Alabama, passing former Freshman of the Year Julio Jones on his way to 59 catches for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Deion Belue, Denzel Devall and Geno Smith all found their way onto the field as freshman, too. Belue, a junior college transfer, started opposite Dee Milliner at cornerback, and Devall and Smith played in reserve roles at linebacker and cornerback, respectively, on Kirby Smart's defense.

"First of all, opportunity is important, to have an opportunity to do that," Smart, Alabama's 37-year-old defensive coordinator, said during Alabama's media day a week ago. "[It takes a] very conscientious kid to understand, 'Hey, I got to know this defense inside and out, I got to know all the checks, I got to know all the motions and checks, I got to know all the adjustments.' You've got to be very conscientious to do that, but you've got to have some ability.

"It's very easy for us to find those guys out there. When we recruit good players, they usually stick out as freshmen. We find ways to get them on the field and always have in some kind of role."

Reggie Ragland
Jim Dedmon/Icon SMIKnowledge of the defense is key for Alabama sophomore linebacker Reggie Ragland, one of the top prospects in the 2012 recruiting class.
But as head coach Nick Saban has explained in the past, the ascent is not always swift. His defense takes about a year to get a handle on, he says, and until the light comes on, it's hard to play with the speed necessary to make an impact.

Junior linebacker Trey DePriest told reporters that he's been impressed with the way true sophomore Reggie Ragland has improved in his second year.

"Reggie is doing really well," he said. "He's picking up the defense a lot more. He's able to run around and make plays because he knows a little more about the defense."

Ragland is one of several players from Alabama's No. 1-ranked 2012 signing class looking to step up. The former No. 2 inside linebacker prospect spent last season learning behind Nico Johnson. And now that Johnson is in camp with the Kansas City Chiefs, Ragland and fellow linebackers Dillon Lee and Ryan Anderson are poised to move up the depth chart.

While it's unlikely any of the three sophomores will break into the starting lineup, each will have their opportunity to contribute this season. Ragland, at a hefty 259 pounds, is a big body who could come off the bench and stop the run at inside linebacker. Lee, who brings more athleticism to the table, could play either inside or out. And Anderson, a former four-star defensive end prospect, is a tweener who could help boost the Tide's pass rush.

Up front, defensive linemen Dakota Ball and Dalvin Tomlinson could do the same. Both redshirted last season -- Ball rode the bench because of a lack of opportunity while Tomlinson was sidelined while he recovered from a torn ACL. But now that Alabama is looking for more "quick-twitch" linemen to rush the passer, both are ideal candidates to fill that void. Tomlinson, in particular, has drawn high praise from coaches and teammates. Saban indicated last season that the former state wrestling champ would have played as a rookie, if not for his injury.

Getting to the quarterback will be key this season as Saban and Smart bring along an overhauled secondary that could feature two sophomores. Smith, who started his first game against Western Kentucky in Week 10, and Landon Collins, who played primarily on special teams a year ago, could get expanded roles. Smith is positioned to be the nickel corner while Collins, the former No. 1 safety prospect in the country, will battle it out with veterans Vinnie Sunseri and Nick Perry for reps opposite Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at safety.

"Landon is doing excellent," Clinton-Dix said toward the beginning of fall camp, telling reporters that the competition at safety has been cutthroat. "He's a great safety. He's fast, dominant and he's doing a great job right now."

On offense, Kenyan Drake, Chris Black and Alec Morris all have the chance to do more this year. Drake is the frontrunner to back up Yeldon at tailback, Black is competing for reps in a crowded receiving corps and Morris is neck and neck with Blake Sims to become the second-string quarterback.

Though Morris might never see the field in a meaningful way this season, he's nonetheless a vital part of Alabama's title hopes. If AJ McCarron were to go down, it's unclear who would start: Would it be the read-option choice (Sims) or the prototypical drop-back passer (Morris)?

"Very different style of players, obviously," Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier said. "As you watch the film from when Blake played for us last season, we become a little different in how we approach the game. His ability to run the football and create plays with his feet is different than a good majority of the quarterbacks on our roster. Alec is more of your prototypical drop-back guy. He’s a big, physical guy with a very strong arm. Both those guys need to continue to develop read progression, understanding of the game. But they’re doing a really good job, work extremely hard."
During the summer, TideNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Alabama roster -- excluding the Tide's 2013 recruiting class -- in our Crimson Countdown series. Starting with No. 1 Dee Hart, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 99 Brandon Ivory.

No. 7 Ryan Anderson
Redshirt freshman defensive end

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Not every tree sprouts overnight. Some roots take time to grab hold.

Alabama signed a total 26 prospects in 2012, and not everyone made an impact right away. Some didn't make it at all, as Eddie Williams, Tyler Hayes and Travell Dixon flamed out. Still, UA saw plenty of return on its investment, as two signees made the SEC All-Freshman team. Here's how we see the rest of the class shaping up.

Top of the class


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Editor's note: TideNation will use this week to look at the four major positions on the football field and how their outlook has changed after spring practice. Today we examine the front seven:


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Forty-eight hours offered enough time to digest Saturday's A-Day scrimmage. TideNation's film review returns with a second look at the finale of spring practice.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Coming into spring practice, the linebacking corps was thought to be a strength for Alabama. Three of four starters were back for another year on campus and a handful of reserves were poised to develop as most underclassmen do. In general, the outlook was positive.

Fast-forward to the final week of camp and the unit has changed dramatically: C.J. Mosley is stuck in a black no-contact jersey, Trey DePriest is out with a fractured foot and Xzavier Dickson is a question mark after missing Saturday's scrimmage with an injury resembling a bruised knee, according to Bama coach Nick Saban.

None of the injuries threaten to linger on into the fall, supposedly, but it does dramatically change what fans will see come A-Day on Saturday afternoon. Instead of seeing the usual inside linebackers, the annual scrimmage in Bryant-Denny Stadium will spotlight some names people haven't become accustomed to hearing, names such as Tana Patrick, Reggie Ragland, Ryan Anderson and Dillion Lee. The four combined for 25 tackles and zero starts last season.

(Read full post)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- They lined the sidelines three- and four-deep to watch pro day at the University of Alabama. Not scouts, not coaches, not general managers. The players, Alabama's underclassmen, showed up between classes to glimpse an event they hope will define the close of their careers in Tuscaloosa years from now.

[+] EnlargeJesse Williams
AP Photo/Butch DillAlabama nose guard Jesse Williams runs agility drills during pro day on Wednesday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Alabama has had arguably the most success in all of college football at putting players in the NFL. Coach Nick Saban has produced 24 draft picks since 2009, 11 of which were in the first round. With guard Chance Warmack, cornerback Dee Milliner and running back Eddie Lacy all first-round possibilities in April, that number will rise.

A total of eight former Alabama players worked out in front of personnel from all 32 NFL teams on Wednesday. Jesse Williams, a 320-pound nose guard who ran an eye-opening 4.9 second 40-yard dash, visited with a member of the Indianapolis Colts organization. Milliner didn't participate in drills because of a shoulder injury but still found time to speak with a representative of the New York Jets. On and on the list went, players working toward a future in the pros.

Underclassmen like defensive end Ryan Anderson and defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson watched the convention of former teammates and NFL personnel unfold from a set of bleachers on the far sideline of the indoor practice facility. Quarterback AJ McCarron was joined by rising sophomore receiver Amari Cooper and early enrollee tailback Derrick Henry on a row of stationary bikes, pedaling aimlessly on the turf as they soaked it all in.

After the pro day wrapped up, it would be their turn to change into shorts and cleats and work through similar drills as part of an annual program for underclassmen. The NFL personnel who wished to stay and watch were welcome, getting a head start on some of Alabama's top pro talent for 2014 and beyond.

"I remember doing the junior day like we're about to do after this," Williams said. The 6-foot-3 Austrailian came to Alabama by way of junior college in Arizona, and after two short years he's positioned himself as one of the top interior defensive linemen prospects in the country. "It's been a long way since then, winning national championships and then coming back to do this all again. It's been good and it will be a good experience to keep going."

(Read full post)

Editor's note: From now until signing day, TideNation will examine the remaining uncommitted prospects still considering the University of Alabama. Today, we look at ESPN 150 linebacker Reuben Foster.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Editor's note: The season is over and the Alabama Crimson Tide are national champions yet again. But what happens next? TideNation examines the most pressing storylines of the offseason as the Tide gear up for another title defense.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- There's a lot of good that could be said about the Alabama defense of 2012. It was strikingly efficient and balanced. The Tide finished No. 1 against the run nationally and No. 7 against the pass. They gave up the fewest points per game in the country and put a bow on it all with a dominating performance against Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Forecasting the Tide: Linebacker 

December, 27, 2012
12/27/12
6:00
AM ET
Editor’s note: Every Tuesday and Thursday between now and national signing day, TideNation will review each position and look at who figures to start, who could rise up the depth chart and who might be on the way. Today we’ll look at the linebackers.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama didn't lack for options at linebacker this season. What the Crimson Tide lost in experience from a year ago, it made up for with depth. Their best and most productive linebacker wasn't even a starter technically.

C.J. Mosley, the junior inside linebacker who leads the team with 99 tackles, wasn't the clear-cut No. 1 at his position. Instead, he shared time with either Nico Johnson or Trey DePriest depending on the formation and down and distance. Next season he won't have to. It's part of the reason why he put the NFL on hold and announced last week that he would return for his senior season.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Tracking the Tide: Xzavier Dickson

December, 12, 2012
12/12/12
6:00
AM ET
Editor’s note: Each day between now and Alabama's date with Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship, we will review the season for a key Crimson Tide player and attempt to project what’s next for him. Today we’ll look at linebacker Xzavier Dickson.

No. 47 Xzavier Dickson
Outside linebacker
33 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks

Role in 2012: Dickson was the starting Jack linebacker and one of the top pass-rushing threats for the Crimson Tide.

The good: The sophomore had some very large shoes to fill with the departure of Courtney Upshaw, who was picked at the top of the second round by the Baltimore Ravens. While he wasn't as dominant as his predecessor, Dickson filled in admirably considering he recorded just three tackles in seven games last season. The former four-star prospect showed glimpses of the tools necessary to play the Jack position: size, strength, agility and a high motor. He saved his best game of the year for last, tallying two sacks against Georgia in the SEC Championship.

The bad: While Dickson was able to get pressure on the quarterback in some games, others he struggled to get upfield and affect the opposing offense. Consistency has eluded the first-time starter. He'll need to learn to shed tackles better and bring it every week to make the jump from good to elite.

Crystal ball: Just because Dickson started at Jack this season doesn't mean he's destined to continue there next year and beyond. Alabama has recruited linebackers with the tweener linebacker-defensive end mold very well, which means that much more competition. Ryan Anderson, a former four-star who redshirted this season, will have a say. So will Denzel Devall, who was able to make a significant contribution off the bench this season. It's possible recruits like DeMarcus Walker and Jonathan Allen could make a run at early playing time as well.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama's true freshmen have wasted no time getting on the field and contributing in 2012. All told, a dozen first-year players have seen action through five games.

Given the news of starting wide receiver DeAndrew White's season-ending knee injury, coupled with the loss of backup running back Dee Hart to the same fate, prepare to hear more from the teenagers on campus.

Amari Cooper had already begun to take on more of a role at receiver, as have T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake at running back. The losses of White and Hart make their rise on the depth chart official.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Practice report: Aug. 21 

August, 21, 2012
8/21/12
5:48
PM ET

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama returned to the practice fields on Tuesday after the first back-to-back off days since the start of preseason camp.

But the 48 hours off weren't enough to heal up some players.

Here are a few notes and observations from the media viewing period of practice, including one key receiver wearing a black no-contact jersey:

  • Amari Cooper did not practice Tuesday. The true freshman receiver expected to play significant snaps this season was wearing a black no-contact jersey while riding the stationary bike.
  • Eddie Lacy, who sprained his ankle and knee during Saturday's scrimmage, was dressed out but did not take any snaps with the rest of the running backs. His left ankle was heavily wrapped. He did not wear a black jersey.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Practice report: Aug. 18 

August, 18, 2012
8/18/12
2:48
PM ET
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama got in full pads and headed to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the second scrimmage of fall practice on Saturday afternoon.

Despite threatening conditions, the Crimson Tide will stay in the stadium for the roughly two-hour scrimmage.

Here are some notes and observations from the media viewing period of practice:

  • Freshman wide receiver Chris Black was in shorts, a T-shirt and a sling on Saturday. The Florida native had shoulder surgery and will be out for 3-4 months. He walked stairs during the media viewing period.
  • For the second consecutive day, Amari Cooper was nowhere to be found at practice. The standout freshman wide receiver didn't participate in drills on Friday. There has been no explanation given for his absence.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Practice report: Aug. 17 

August, 17, 2012
8/17/12
4:40
PM ET
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama went indoors for the second straight day of practice.

It was the 14th day of practice and the 19th overall. The Crimson Tide will scrimmage on Saturday afternoon before taking off back-to-back days for the first time this season.

Here are a few notes and observations from the media viewing period:

  • Wide receiver Kenny Bell was wearing a sleeve on his right knee during practice. Coach Nick Saban said Thursday that Bell has had a number of nagging injuries during fall camp.
  • Jalston Fowler began practice with the running backs. The junior from Mobile, Ala., has gone back and forth between running back and H-Back for the past two weeks.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Nick Saban Talks Recruiting
Alabama is in line for its fourth straight No. 1 college football recruiting class. Nick Saban talks about his approach to building classes and the importance of developing incoming talent.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video

SEC SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 8/28
Saturday, 8/30
Sunday, 8/31