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Alabama in the Pros

Alabama in the NFL: Mark Barron’s Move to Linebacker

The Los Angeles Rams are spending their first season back in California since 1994. The transition is tough for any franchise and the Rams showed it, losing to the bottom-dwelling San Francisco 49ers in embarrassing fashion on Monday Night football. HBO’s Hard Knocks covered the team’s training camp, having many players discuss the struggle for the transition. Former Alabama star Mark Barron was also a part of the move but he was still working on his own change.

After being traded to the Rams in 2014, Barron was thrown into a difficult situation. Jeff Fisher’s team was not in need of a safety with T.J. McDonald and Rodney McLeod were the strong parts of the secondary. The Rams tried Barron out at cornerback and linebacker but the former safety only started two games for St. Louis that season. The big break for Barron came at the expense of one of his teammates.

In October of 2015, former Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree went down with a season-ending ankle injury. He was a star for the Rams and was the team’s leading tackler before going out. However, that opened the door for Barron to step in at the vacant linebacker spot. After a bye week, Barron was able to complete the transition and he showed that he was ready for the job.

In a 24-6 victory over the Browns, Barron led the team with 16 tackles. That included 10 solo tackles, two tackles for a loss and led a defense that forced four turnovers. The move to a new position seemed easy and Barron drew a lot of praise from his teammates.

“”He’s just a guy who knows football,” former Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “When he sees a play happening he goes for it.”

Barron ended up starting 12 games at linebacker for the Rams. He finished with a team-high 116 tackles, while forcing three fumbles and getting one sack. It was his second straight season without an interception but the former safety still had five pass deflections.

The Alabama star added a new aspect to his game as he became a big weapon against the run. The stat “stuffs” is defined as denying a run play at (or before) the line of scrimmage. In 2015, Mark Barron finished with 16 stuffs. The only other player in the league to have that many stuffs was J.J. Watt.

“I’m just playing football,” Barron said in an October interview with Fox Sports. “That’s easy to me. I just line up and I know my responsibility. And as long as I know my responsibility, I can do that. It’s not a hard adjustment. It’s just football.”

(GIF Courtesy of The Ringer)

Barron is once again thriving at the linebacker position and now has the help of Ogletree, who has returned from injury. Barron will likely be used in more coverage schemes now, and it has shown so far this season. He already has four pass deflections and had an interception in last week’s game against Tampa Bay.

Barron has racked up 22 tackles so far this season and is a major key to the success of the Los Angeles Rams. If you’re a fan of watching former Tide stars on Sundays, offensive weapons like Julio Jones and Amari Cooper may be on top of the list. However, watch Mark Barron and the Rams with every chance you can get. Barron’s ability to play everywhere on the field shows why he was Built by Bama.

Caleb Turrentine is a columnist and contributor at Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He also does work for Alabama’s team page at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @CalebTurrentine.

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