Jerrell Harris - #5 – LB – 6-3 – 215 lbs. – Gadsden, AL – Gadsden City
Don’ta Hightower - #30 – LB – 6-4 – 250 lbs. – Lewisburg, TN – Marshall County
Courtney Upshaw - #41 – LB – 6-2 – 230 lbs. – Eufala, AL - Eufala
Glenn Harbin - #54 – LB – 6-6 – 245 lbs. – Mobile, AL – McGill Toolen
Michael Williams - #89 – LB – 6-6 – 270 lbs. – Reform, AL – Pickens County
There is probably a greater need for immediate impact at this position than with any other group of the incoming guys. Alabama's linebacker corps was frighteningly thin in January, and it's only gotten worse since then. This group is a great combination of both inside and outside guys, with a great combination of size and speed. Whether or not 1 or more of these guys starts is still up for debate, but there is a need for them to all be ready to play.
Jerrell Harris was the rock star of this class. His recruitment for on a national scale, with the Tide edging out USC for his signature. He became an internet legend after a destructive hit from him made its way to youtube.
It was expected that he would begin his career outside, but his first reps in the fall camp came at the WILL linebacker. He's finally made his way out to SAM, where he'll likely stay.
Chance he plays in 2008: Almost certain. He's still behind Chavis Williams at the SAM, but he is too athletic to keep off of the field. If Williams was 25 or 30 lbs. heavier he might be able to be an every down type of play, but at his current weight he'll get beaten up a little over the course of the game. To avoid that there will likely be a heavy rotation at the position, and Harris will likely be the #2 guy when fall camp comes to a close.
Don'ta Hightower is the most physically impressive of the new linebackers. He is huge, with his listed weight of 250 lbs. probably well under where he actually is. He's worked at both the WILL and the MIKE so far in fall camp, but he's almost certain to find his way to the WILL.
Chance he plays in 2008: Almost certain. If Prince Hall were not suspended for 3 games things might be different. But with that being the case the Tide has only 3 players really capable of playing the WILL - expected starter Cory Reamer, Charlie Higgenbotham (who is the backup for both inside positions) & Hightower. When you combine that lack of depth with the physical impressiveness of Hightower, I expect he'll find his way onto the field at the Georgia Dome for the Clemson game.
Courtney Upshaw was a fan favorite during the recruiting process, seen by many as the desperately looked for answer to Alabama's problems at the JACK linebacker position. But when fall camp opened, Upshaw opened at an interior spot. After a couple of days of looking good at the WILL, he moved to the JACK where it is likely that he'll stay.
Chance he plays in 2008: Very good. I would rate it higher if not for the fact that Bama will head into the season with 5 scholarship guys at this position, and he is probably 30 lbs. or so lighter than the ideal weight for the position. Right now he is probably 3rd string behind Brandon Fanney & Alex Watkins, but he is likely the most athletic of this bunch. How the other two freshman at this position shake out might be the determining factor in whether or not he redshirts.
Glenn Harbin was expected to come in at the defensive end position, but landed at the JACK linebacker on the first day of fall camp. At 6'6 he has the ideal frame for the position. Ultimately he'll need to add 25 or 30 lbs. to that frame, but that should not be a problem.
Chance he plays in 2008: Decent. The adjustment from end to linebacker will take some time. He's probably read now to fulfill the pass rush part of the JACK position, and that could get him on the field. But he's a little under-sized for that part of things, and his coverage skills will have to be developed from scratch. Given the potential size he could become, I expect that he'll redshirt. If the guys at the top can't produce, though, he could easily end up getting snaps.
Michael Williams being at JACK linebacker would qualify as one of the bigger surprises of fall camp. There was a lot of debate over whether he would end up at tight end or defensive end, with linebacker never being in the discussion. At 6'6 and 270 lbs. he is the ideal size for the position and given that tight end was a possibility for him, the athleticism is almost certainly there.
Chance he plays in 2008: Decent. Like with Harbin, learning a new position takes time. In high school he almost certainly was never asked to drop back in coverage, so he'll have to learn that part of things. I would guess that his experience at tight end will help him here, so he might possibly have an advantage over Harbin in learning that part of things. Much as with Harbin, though, unless the top 3 guys struggle to lock down the position, he might be headed for a redshirt, simply to learn the position. He's a unique athlete, though, so it wouldn't shock me to see him make a huge leap forward at some point and earn his way on the field.
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