Alabama’s Reggie Ragland exceeded all expectations as an inside linebacker in 2014. The rising senior finished second on the team in tackles (95), and totaled 1.5 sacks, three pass breakups, three fumble recoveries, an interception and a forced fumble.
He anchored a defense that allowed 88.4 rushing yards per game and three touchdowns, prior to Alabama’s 2015 Sugar Bowl matchup against Ohio State.
Ragland’s ability to read and react paid off well for Alabama in 2014. He led the team in tackles in six games, including a season-high 13 tackles against LSU. His double digit marks in stops came against Arkansas (12), LSU and Mississippi State (10).
Ragland recorded his first collegiate interception against Texas A&M. He picked off a Kenny Hill pass late in the fourth quarter, securing a 59-0 shutout victory for Alabama over the Aggies.
Alabama’s thrived on having game changers at inside linebacker under head coach Nick Saban, including Rolando McClain, Dont’a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and C.J. Mosley.
A solid performance from Ragland in 2015 could land him in the same category. He’s an instinctive run stopper, yet Ragland needs to improve on lateral quickness and play calling.
The Crimson Tide has had vocal linebackers in previous season, with the exception of Mosley. Defensive back Landon Collins captained Alabama’s defense in 2014, but he didn’t do much talking. Ragland brings a mixture of hard work and conversations to the table.
McClain and Mosley were both recipients of the Butkus Award. Upshaw and Hightower were pivotal members of an Alabama defense that dominated every category in 2011.
Offseason coaching hires bode well for the Crimson Tide, but having Ragland return for a senior season is huge. He was evaluated as a second round pick by many NFL scouts, yet Ragland chose to return to Tuscaloosa. His decision strengthens the front seven of Alabama’s defense, giving it a chance to compete for a national title in 2015.