Q&A with Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland
At the end of last season, Reggie Ragland’s best chance of cracking the University of Alabama starting lineup didn’t necessarily appear to be where it finally occurred, at interior linebacker.
That’s C.J. Mosley’s former spot, where he not only served as the play-caller and eventual team captain, but also won the Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker.
With Trey DePriest already a fixture and upcoming sensation Reuben Foster one of those talents coaches never really want to take off the field, Ragland seemed to be a prime candidate to maybe win the strongside linebacker job, where Adrian Hubbard used to line up.
In the spring, though, Foster struggled again with lowering his head while making tackles which confirmed two things to the coaches: 1) They’d basically have to re-teach him proper tackling techniques before he really hurt himself, and 2) Ragland was too valuable to move from the interior.
He ended up leading all defensive players with 10 tackles and also made an interception on A-Day.
“Reggie is a good player for us … a very athletic, explosive guy who has really good size, the kind of inside ’backer that we like,” Coach Nick Saban said. “His knowledge and experience has helped his consistency and performance and I think Reggie can be a really good player for us this year.”
Ragland recently talked about his progression as a player and what it’s like to face some of the Crimson Tide offensive players during practices:
So how far have you come along?
“I feel like I’m doing good. I’m a whole lot faster than I was in the spring. I’m getting the calls out more and I can help out and get the D-linemen into the area where they need to go now and tell the safeties a little bit what to do now too.”
How hard was it for you as a freshman?
“When I first came in, I beat myself up a lot instead of me just being calm and just trying to learn what’s going on. I beat myself up and it set me back. But now, I learned as I’m getting older, I just need to be more calm and relaxed and move on to the next play.”
Is this the best opportunity you’ve had yet for playing time?
“Yeah since C.J.’s gone it’s time for me to step up and become a leader on the defense.”
Was it frustrating waiting for your turn behind him?
“Nah, it didn’t frustrate me at all. I knew I had two years to learn behind the best and I did.”
How much did you learn from Mosley?
“I learned a lot. I learned everything I know about the Will spot from him. Watching him in practice the last couple of years, seeing how he did things at the Will spot. I’m trying to bring that to the field.”
And what was the biggest thing?
“Being vocal and making sure you know what to do on the field.”
Could you call him and ask him a question if you needed to?
“Yes. If I wanted to call him now he’d pick up the line and tell me some things he’s learned in the league. Just the other day I texted him about his game and he texted me right back.”
How much better are you at dropping into coverage?
“I’m very comfortable with it now that I’m used to it. I can see some of the stuff they are about to do before they do it now. It’s a whole lot easier.”
How much does it help to be able to line up next to a two-year starter, Trey DePriest?
“It helps out a lot, because some things I don’t get, but he breaks them down for me the way C.J. would have if I had lined up behind C.J.”
You described Rueben Foster’s play in the spring as “Reckless abandon.” How’s he progressing?
“Oh, Reuben’s a stud and when you’re a stud, you’re going to learn what you need to learn to be successful and that’s what we’re doing.”
Are you two friends?
“Oh yeah, that’s my dawg. We’re roommates now. That’s like my little brother. We kid, we argue with each other and we’re going to fuss. But at the end of the day, it’s nothing but love with us.”
What’s he like off the field?
“He’s a big kid. He likes to play just like I do and that’s all of us outside of football.”
How has Shaun Dion Hamilton done?
“He’s really good as far as coming in as a freshman and learning the system.”
Is it safe to say that the younger guys are as good as advertised?
“Yeah, especially Keith Holcombe. Now in a couple of years, that’s who everybody needs to watch out for. He’s going to be a stud for us.”
What can you tell us about the younger outside linebackers like Rashaan Evans and Christian Miller?
“Nothing but explosive. Once they catch onto the playbook, they are going to be dangerous on the outside coming off the pass rush.”
What’s it like for a linebacker at this level insofar as the physical toll and being able to go into the fourth quarter and still make tackles like it’s the first play?
“It’s very physical, but you’ve got to have that mindset to push through it, and when the time presents itself you have to make that tackle in the hole.”
Speaking of the hole, what’s it like playing against Alabama running back Derrick Henry?
“He’s 6-4, 240 and runs like a 5-10 guy. So he’s a big guy. A lot of people are scared to tackle him.”
He’s that tough to tackle?
“Yeah, I met him in the hole a few times.”
What’s that meeting like?
“For the both of us. We’re coming in, we’re going to thud each other real hard, because right now we can’t take each other down to the ground. But it’s mean and peaceful, I can tell you that.”
What about colliding with fullback Jalston Fowler in the hole?
“Oooh. You’d better bring your hard hat. If you don’t bring it, he’s going to knock you on your butt.”
Is there anyone else on the team that you say that about?
“The offensive line. All those guys bring that thump. And if you don’t bring it you’re going to get put on your butt and get embarrassed on film.”