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Freshman to watch: Reggie Ragland

Alabama has a rich history, recently even, with strong and physical linebackers. Dont’a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and Rolando McClain all stepped on campus and instantly worked overwhelmingly hard to lead the Crimson Tide defense. Ultimately, that hard work landed them a spot in the NFL.

With each recruiting class, Nick Saban has been able to pull in some of the nation’s top linebackers to step in and almost immediately replace the star power lost to graduation and the NFL Draft. This year is no different. The Tide added Dillon Lee, Denzel Devall and Ryan Anderson. Each of those players are fantastic athletes that will anchor Kirby Smart’s defense for the next few years. But there’s another incoming prospect that might be good enough to make an impact immediately.

Reggie Ragland is a phenomenal talent that will come to Tuscaloosa as one of the Tide’s most decorated incoming prospects. The 6-foot-3, 247 pounder from Madison AL., was rated the nation’s No. 1 middle linebacker by most scouting services. He recorded a 4.6 40-yard dash and boasts a 34.5-inch vertical leap. Those are only a few raw numbers. They don’t even begin to describe what Reggie brings to the table.

Ragland stormed onto the scene in 2010 when he recorded 91 tackles and 21 tackles for loss at Bob Jones High School as a junior. That’s when most schools around the nation began noticing Ragland’s fantastic abilities. He only improved during his senior season. Ragland recorded 97 tackles with 22 tackles for loss and six sacks during 2011.

In the end, Ragland chose Alabama over offers from Auburn, Florida and Tennessee. He was named a member of the Super Southeast 120 by the Mobile Register and was even a state champion in basketball at Bob Jones during the 2009-2010 season.

The huge linebacker projects as an inside linebacker initially, but also has the type of size that would allow him to contribute on the edge. Many linebackers have come to Tuscaloosa after being elite inside linebackers in high school and have quickly been transitioned to other positions where they can contribute the most. This will be no different for Ragland.

He should be able to enter Tuscaloosa this summer, work hard and find a way to be able to contribute pretty quickly. Ragland seems to have a very good motor and is a very intense defensive player. During the Under Armour All-America Game following Ragland’s senior season, he was able to piece together an impressive week of practice with a nice performance in the game. He had five tackles, and two of those tackles were for a loss.

Ragland is in a great position. Alabama lost a ton of talent at the linebacker position to graduation and the draft, and with the time early enrollees Ryan Anderson and Dillon Lee spent working hard during the spring, it will be interesting to see how quickly Ragland can learn the defense and move his way up the depth chart. It will be no surprise to anyone if Ragland finds playing time by the end of the season or perhaps even earlier. He has all the tools necessary. Now, he has to put it all together at the next level of competition.

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