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Hubbard Steps In, Shows Progress During Spring

Adrian Hubbard has big shoes to fill. Then again, Hubbard’s 6-foot-6, 248 pound frame probably requires big shoes, too.

Courtney Upshaw is no longer an available option for the Crimson Tide defense, and it’s his spot as an outside linebacker that the big sophomores, Hubbard and Xzavier Dickson, began to fill during spring practice. Hubbard backed up Upshaw last season at what is known as the Jack linebacker position. This spring, it seemed as if sophomore Dickson was manning that spot as the spring progressed.

Hubbard spent much of the spring working on the opposite side of Dickson at the Sam linebacker position. But this isn’t the first time Hubbard has had to alter his positions since he has been in Tuscaloosa. Hubbard already understands the basics of playing the Will and Mike linebacker positions, so transitioning to the other edge isn’t too much of an issue to him.

“I’m just playing my position wherever they have me,” Hubbard said during spring practice. “I like wherever they put me on the field, to tell the truth.”

That’s a mindset that is most assuredly welcomed by new linebackers coach Lance Thompson. Coach Thompson replaces former outside linebackers coach Sal Sunseri who left in the offseason to become the University of Tennessee’s defensive coordinator. Hubbard has used what Sunseri, Upshaw and Jerrell Harris taught him during his first years in Tuscaloosa, and those lessons have helped him acclimate to a new coach.

“I feel like I’ve been molded well by Courtney (Upshaw) and Jerrell (Harris),” Hubbard said. “They kind of made that warrior mentality come out in me.

“(Former linebackers coach Sal Sunseri), kind of helped us with that warrior mentality, too. Coach Thompson is all about that mentality – do your job and execute your assignments, and everything will fall into place for itself.”

That warrior mentality showed itself during the Tide’s annual A-Day game as Hubbard had a spectacular game. The sophomore from Lawrenceville, Georgia, led the White team with seven tackles and three sacks. And while Hubbard knows he had a productive game, that doesn’t mean he has any room for complacency or satisfaction.

“There’s always room for improvement,” Hubbard said. “You can’t think you’ve ever arrived somewhere. When you’ve done that, you shouldn’t be playing anymore.

“It’s a process. I’m just doing my best to learn different positions. I’ve tried to improve and better my knowledge of Coach (Nick) Saban’s defense. It’s pretty hard to do when you’re trying to learn five positions like I am.”

With an already weakened linebackers unit heading into 2012, it’s surely comforting to the Tide coaching staff that Hubbard understands that improvement is a constant thing. In fact, perhaps that’s why Hubbard caught the eye of the coaching staff this spring.

Coach Saban mentioned numerous times during the spring that Hubbard was one of the Tide’s hardest working players. So when Hubbard won the Woodrow Lowe Linebacker Award following the Tide’s A-Day game, it wasn’t much of a surprise.

Hopefully, Hubbard will carry the momentum generated from a productive spring into the fall. If so, whichever linebacker position he plays should be in good hands.

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