03 September 2008
A first glance at the stat sheet might make it seem as though the Tide linebackers were not heavily involved in the game against Clemson. After all, Eryk Anders
led the corps with five tackles and Rolando McClain
chipped in just three. After seeing huge totals amassed by linebackers over the past few seasons, seeing no individual guy stand out just looks odd.
But you have to keep in mind that Clemson ran only 48 offensive plays, and of those 14 were incomplete passes. That means that there were only 34 plays that involved a tackle, which simply doesn't leave a whole lot to go around. Even less when you take into account that none of the 1st team linebackers played on Clemson's final drive which accounted for 11 plays, six of which had a tackle recorded.
The Tide dominated Clemson so hard that the individual statistics for Alabama don't show anything spectacular. No one person stood out on the stat sheet, which is probably how Nick Saban and his staff would love to see things all season.
The game did see two turnovers, and the linebackers were involved in both. Cory Reamer
caused a fumble that Don'ta Hightower
recovered on Clemson's second play from scrimmage. Near the end of the 1st Half Rolando McClain
tipped a pass that Marquis Johnson intercepted.
Going further, the linebackers accounted for three of Bama's six tackles for a loss, including two of the Tide's three sacks. In what limited opportuntities there were the linebackers made plays.
It all starts for this group with McClain, who put together a solid evening. His three tackles are far fewer than we've seen him rack up in a game, but he played within himself. He didn't blow assignments, he wasn't lined up in the wrong place, he didn't miss tackles. He, simply put, played his game the way that it was schemed.
Hightower played at times like a freshman and other times like a veteran. He'll have better games in his career, but this first one was nothing shabby. Sure, he only had one tackle on the day, but his fumble recovery set gave Alabama early momentum that it never relinquished.
had one highlight in the game, but it was a highlight for Clemson. I won't blame him, though, because any time that he lines up across from the other team's fastest receiver there should be an adjustment made in coverage. Bama still needs to see more plays come from the Jack, but Fanney spent more time in this game with his hand down than he will in most.
Reamer was active in his time on the field. He executed a perfect strip of Clemson's Jamie Harper that changed the shape of the first quarter. I was surprised to see him come off of the field as much as he did in the nickel package, but I expect him to play a major role there before the season is out.
Congratulations are in order for Chavis Williams
and Charlie Higgenbotham
who each recorded their first career sacks. I thought each was a perfect example of the type of player that these guys are. Williams used his speed and athletecism to blow around the Clemson right tackle, while Higgenbotham used perfect timing to catch Cullen Harper unaware of a middle blitz.
What to work on for next week: Similar to the defensive linemen, there really isn't anything. With Clemson only running the ball 14 times there were not enough opportunities for these guys to be involved near the line of scrimmage. There is a need for more from the Jack, but when his hand is down he becomes more of a defensive end, which limits that a little.