Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Ragland Thrives in New Role for Alabama

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Ragland Thrives in New Role for Alabama

Article excerpt

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Reggie Ragland flashed his quickness on the field. The Alabama linebacker darted across the defensive line, calling out the play to each lineman before finally settling back into place an instant before Arkansas snapped the ball. The next move for the 10th-ranked Crimson Tide's busiest defender was stuffing tailback Rawleigh Williams at the line of scrimmage in last week's game.

He returned for his senior season to become the 10th-ranked Crimson Tide's latest star middle linebacker/defensive play-caller, embracing a demanding job where players like C.J. Mosley, Rolando McClain and Dont'a Hightower have thrived before becoming first- round NFL draft picks under coach Nick Saban.

"Any time you get added responsibility here you have to get better, Ragland said. "Each week you have to get better. You better keep asking the necessary questions to keep getting better of coach Saban and coach (Kirby) Smart. I asked coach Smart a thousand questions on even the smallest things that might be the easiest thing in our defense. I still ask him questions like that, just to help myself improve on it.

Ragland seems to be making the most of his decision to return for his senior season instead of joining the annual NFL draft exodus for the Tide, which visits No. 9 Texas A&M on Saturday.

He's leading Alabama with 50 tackles, 18 more than any other player, and has forced two fumbles. Ragland was named Southeastern Conference defensive player of the week after an Arkansas game where he seemed to be all over the field.

He chased down quarterback Brandon Allen and stripped the ball away to force a punt. Ragland had a sack and a couple of quarterback hurries on back-to-back third down stops.

He left the game at one point with a left shoulder stinger and smothered tight end Jeremy Sprinkle on his first play back. …

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