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Alabama football lands three linebackers on 2016 preseason Butkus Award watch list

Alabama linebacker Tim Williams (No. 56) celebrates a sack vs. Georgia in 2015: John David Mercer - USA TODAY Sports

Despite losing A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed and Reggie Ragland to the National Football League, Alabama returned two of its primary pass rushers and a thumper at linebacker to its roster.

On Tuesday, the Butkus Foundation named Tim Williams, Reuben Foster and Ryan Anderson to its 2016 preseason award watch list. For Anderson, it will be his first preseason honor while Foster and Williams will share a third list together (Chuck Bendarik, Bronko Nagurski). All three players decided to forgo the NFL Draft and return for their senior years, upon finishing 2015 with solid production.

Foster, a native of Auburn, Ala., finished second on the team in tackles with 73. He shook off the injury bug and started all 15 games, totaling eight tackles for loss, a sack, nine pass breakups and three quarterback hurries.

Anderson, a native of Daphne, Ala., improved upon his sack numbers from 2014.

He recorded six sacks at jack linebacker, while finishing third on the squad in tackles for loss with 11.5. Anderson was tied for first in quarterback hurries (10) and forced two fumbles in 15 games.

Williams, a native of Baton Rouge, La., was one of 12 Tide players named to Phil Steele’s 2016 preseason All-American Team (first team). He’s didn’t play much in 2013 and 2014, nevertheless, Williams became a marquee name as a pass rush specialist a year ago.

He recorded 10.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss, both of which stood second on the team. Ten of Williams’ sacks came against elite competition, including three combined against Florida and Michigan State.

Former Alabama standouts Derrick Thomas (1988), Rolando McClain (2009) and C.J. Mosley (2013) all won the Butkus Award—given to the nation’s top linebacker during their tenures. As for Foster, Williams and Anderson, all three are projected to be taken early in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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