2014 saw flashes of potential from Alabama linebackers Reuben Foster and Dillon Lee, yet an injury bug continues to haunt both players. Lee was an object of conversation in the 2014 offseason. He was tabbed to be C.J. Mosely’s replacement at inside linebacker.
Reggie Ragland assumed the role and had a monster season, accounting for 95 tackles. Lee suffered a leg injury against LSU and Mississippi State. He totaled 24 tackles in 14 games.
Foster started the 2014 season with a strong performance against West Virginia. He filled in admirably for Trey DePriest and tied for second on the team in tackles (7) with one for loss.
Foster recorded two tackles against Florida, but had a quality showing in Alabama’s matchup against Texas A&M. He registered five tackles and a sack in Alabama’s 59-0 shutout victory.
LSU fans witnessed the earth shake, when the Tigers hosted Alabama on Nov. 8, 2014. Foster knocked LSU’s running back Leonard Fournette backwards on a kick return. The hit shocked LSU’s bench, but it elated Alabama’s sideline. The Crimson Tide had evened the score on a previous possession, but Foster’s special teams play gave it momentum in overtime.
He’s a special teams terror, but Foster struggles with staying level in making tackles. He constantly goes in low with his head, resulting in neck injuries. Foster’s continuing to grasp the system, but needs to work on tackling appropriately. He accounted for 22 tackles and a sack in 14 games last season.
Injuries are an issue, but Dillon Lee has also dealt with off-the-field troubles. He was arrested on Apr. 10, 2014 for driving under the influence. Responsibility is a must when playing under head coach Nick Saban.
Both Foster and Lee were studs in high school. Lee, a former four-star prospect, ran a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash and displayed a 35.5-inch vertical at Buford High School (Buford, Ga.).
He led a defense that allowed 7.3 points per game. Lee collected 84 tackles, nine sacks, five interceptions and a fumble recovery in 2010. He was a member of three Georgia State Championships from 2008-10.
Foster was a home grown product in Auburn’s backyard. He was the nation’s No.1 consensus inside linebacker at Auburn High School (Auburn, Ala.). Foster, a former five-star recruit, totaled 399 tackles, 56 tackles for loss and 24 sacks in his tenure. He angered Auburn fans in 2013, when he made the decision to come to Alabama.
Both players will enter 2015 as upperclassmen, Foster a junior and Lee a senior. Foster and Lee have the capabilities to be great, but it comes down to which one has the most focus. Alabama’s defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was transitioned to inside linebackers coach this offseason. He looks work with both plays and will see which one is more ready for action next season.