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Alabama Crimson Tide: Top 10 Linebackers of All-Time

They provide defensive coordinators with a second pair of eyes on the field; however, there is more to a linebacker than reading plays.  Linebackers are enforcers and reactors. It’s their job to make sure everyone on defense is set. Linebackers have to be quick in dissecting plays, finding the ball and providing punishing hits on the opposition.

A strong defensive line and a potent secondary is good, but Alabama’s trademark has been the players at the second level, the linebackers. From Wallace Wade to Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide has recruited some of the best linebackers in college football.  Each one had a different personality, but it all translated to hard work and victory on the field. Here is a list of the best linebackers that have donned a crimson and white jersey.

Alabama’s top 10 Linebackers

10.  CJ Mosley (2010-13)

·         Mosley was an instinctive linebacker with great lateral quickness

·         In 2012 and 2013, Mosley was the captain of Alabama’s defense.

·         He finished his career with 319 tackles, 6.5 sacks, five interceptions, 15 quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

·         Mosley’s three career interception returns for touchdowns tied and Alabama record.

·         Mosley is a Southeastern Conference Champion (2012 season).

·         He is a two-time BCS national champion (2011 and 2012 seasons).

·         Mosley was a recipient of numerous awards, including SEC Defensive Player of the Year (2013). First-team All-SEC (2012, 2013), First-team All-American (2012, 2013) and Butkus Award winner (2013).  


9.  Dont’a Hightower (2008-11)

·         After Rolando McClain, Hightower took over as the pass rush specialist for Alabama.

·         Hightower finished his career with 235 tackles (21.0 tackles for loss), 5.0 sacks, 25 quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries

·         In 2010, he captained Alabama to the No. 1 ranked defense in all five major categories.

o   Scoring Defense: 8.8 points per game

o   Total Defense: 191.3 yards per game

o   Rush Defense: 74.9 yards per game

o   Passing Efficiency Defense: 83.9 yards per game

o   Pass Defense: 116.3 yards per game

·         Hightower is a two-time BCS national champion (2009 and 2011 seasons)

·         He is an SEC champion (2009 season).

·         Hightower racked up various achievements, including Consensus All-American (2011) and First-team All-SEC (2011)

·         He was a finalist for the Lombardi Award, Chuck Bendarik Award, Butkus Award and Lott Trophy in 2011.


8.  Rolando McClain (2007-09)

·         It was McClain who guided Alabama’s defense back to prominence in 2009.

·         As a jack of all trades, McClain was a pass rush specialist that could also stop the run and cover well.

·         His most prolific season was in 2009.

·         McClain recorded 105 tackles (14.5 tackles for loss), 4.0 sacks, 14 quarterback hurries, two interceptions, 3 pass breakups and a forced fumble.

·         McClain led the Tide’s defense to its first SEC and national title in the Saban era (2009).

·         He collected many awards in 2009, including the Lambert Award and Butkus Award.


7.  DeMeco Ryans (2002-05)

·         Ryans provided the rebirth of Alabama’s pass rush in the mid-2000s.

·         His best season was in 2005.

·         Ryans totaled 76 tackles (9.5 tackles for loss), 3.5 sacks, one interception, four quarterbacks hurries, two pass breakups, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

·         He guided the Crimson Tide to a 10-2 record in 2005.

·         Ryans was named defensive MVP for his performance in the 2006 Cotton Bowl Classic. Alabama defeated Texas Tech 13-10.

·         He brought home a host of awards, including SEC Defensive Player of the Year (2005), First-team All-SEC (2005), Consensus first-team All-American (2005) and Lott Trophy winner (2005).


6.  Woodrow Lowe (1972-75)

·         Lowe was pivotal in the mid-to- late years under Paul Bryant.

·         As a sophomore, Lowe recorded 134 tackles (holds the Alabama record for most tackles in a season).

·         He finished his career ranked third all-time in tackles with 315.

·         Lowe was a three-time All-American (1973-75)

·         He was a 4x SEC champion (1972-1975)

·         Lowe won a national title with the Tide in 1973.


5.  Barry Krauss (1976-79)

·         Like Woodrow Lowe, Krauss played under Bryant in the mid-to- late 70s.

·         Krauss was a three-time SEC champion (1977-79).

·         He was a key factor on the 1978 national title team.

·         In the 1979 Sugar Bowl, Krauss met Penn State running back Mike Guman in the air and knocked him back short of the goal line.

·         Alabama won the game 14-7 and Krauss was named MVP for his efforts.


4.  Lee Roy Jordan (1960-62)

·         Under a young and hungry Paul Bryant, Jordan blossomed as a linebacker.

·         As a sophomore, Jordan was versatile. He played both linebacker and center.

·         In 1960, he led the Tide to an 8-1-2 season.

·         He was named MVP in the Bluebonnet Bowl versus Texas. The game ended in a 3-3 tie.

·         As a junior, Jordan helped the Tide capture an 11-0 season, an SEC title and a national title. Six of Alabama’s 11 wins were shutouts, including a 34-0 victory over Auburn.

·         Jordan guided the Tide to a 10-1 season in 1962. Alabama went to the Orange Bowl and defeated Oklahoma 17-0.

·         Jordan recorded 31 tackles and received his second MVP award in a bowl game.

·         He received a unanimous All-American award status and the Lineman of the Year award after his senior year.


3.  Keith McCants (1987-89)

·         Alongside Cornelius Bennett and Derrick Thomas, McCants helped form one of the most dominant defenses in Alabama history in the late 80s.

·         In 1978, McCants finished second on the team in tackles with 78.

·         As a junior, McCants led the team with 119 tackles and four sacks.

·         McCants finished his career with 197 tackles, including 16 tackles for loss.

·         His 119 tackles in a single season ranks 6th all-time.

·         CBS TV named him National Defensive Player of the Year (1989).

·         He was a unanimous First Team All-American (1989)

·         McCants was a Butkus Award runner-up (1989).


2.  Cornelius Bennett (1983-86)

·         Bennett was a three-time first selection on College Football All-America Team (1984-86).

·         Bennett finished his career recording 287 tackles, 21 ½ sacks and three fumble recoveries.

·         His famous play came in 1986 when he leveled Notre Dame’s quarterback Steve Beuerlein to the ground.

·         As a senior, Bennett won the Lombardi Award, SEC Player of the Year honors and finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting.

·         In 2005, Bennett was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.


1.      Derrick Thomas (1986-89)

a.      Thomas was the epitome of a linebacker for Alabama in the late 80s.

b.      He anchored one of the greatest defensive lines in college football history.

c.       Thomas broke numerous records, including sacks in a single season.

d.      He put in 27 sacks in 1988 and ended his career with 52 sacks.

e.       For his efforts, Thomas was a unanimous All-American (1988), a Butkus Award winner (1988) and finished 10th in the Heisman voting.


Honorable Mentions

·         E.J. Junior (1977-80)

o   Junior played both defensive end and linebacker.

o   He was a part of two national championship teams.

o   He was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the Lombardi Trophy in 1980.


·         Courtney Upshaw (2008-11)

o   Upshaw played at defensive end and linebacker for Alabama.

o   Like Hightower, Upshaw was a pure pass rusher.

o   Upshaw recovered the Garrett Gilbert fumble in the 2010 BCS National Championship Game to help the Tide seal a 37-21 victory over Texas.

o   He finished his career tallying 140 tackles (35.5 tackles for loss), 17.5 sacks, one interception, 18 quarterback hurries, six forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

o   Upshaw was an SEC champion (2009) and a two-time BCS national champion (2009 and 2011 seasons).


·         Eryk Anders (2006-09)

o   His best season was in 2009.

o   Anders was fourth on the team in tackles (44) and second in sacks (4.0) in 2009.

o   He provided the sack of Garrett Gilbert that forced the fumble in the 2010 BCS National Championship Game.

o   Anders was an SEC champion and a BCS national champion in 2009.


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