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Spring Sneak Peek: Linebacker

BamaOnLine.com takes a look ahead at the linebacker positions.

C.J. Mosley hopes to finish his UA career with a third straight crystal football.

Reserves lost: ILB 35 Nico Johnson; ILB 36 Tyler Hayes.

Returning starters: Inside: 32 C.J. Mosley (Sr.); 33 Trey DePriest (Jr.). Outside: 42 Adrian Hubbard (Jr.); 47 Xzavier Dickson (Jr.).

In the mix: Inside: 11 Tana Patrick (Sr.); 18 Reggie Ragland (So.); 7 Ryan Anderson (rFr.). Outside: 30 Denzel Devall (So.); 25 Dillon Lee (So.);19 Jonathan Atchison (Sr.).

See ya in the summer: OLB/DE Jonathan Allen; OLB Tim Williams; ILB Walker Jones; ILB Reuben Foster.

Did you know? Hubbard and DePriest each started 13 games in 2011, four more than consensus all-america Mosley ... Mosley's 107 total tackles in 2012 were the most by a Crimson Tide defender in Nick Saban's six seasons as head coach ... In seasons (2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012) in which an inside linebacker has led the Crimson Tide in tackles during the Saban era, UA has posted a 51-4 record. In seasons (2007 and 2010) in which a safety has led the Crimson Tide in tackles during the Saban era, UA has posted a 17-9 mark ... UA linebackers recorded 33 tackles for loss in 2012, down from the 50.5 TFL the 2011 group racked up ... Hubbard led the Crimson Tide in tackles for loss (11) and sacks (7) in 2012.

The big question: How will depth at both the inside and outside spots shake out? After bouncing around in their first year in the program, it will be interesting to see where Ragland, Lee and Anderson settle in. For my money, identifying a successor to Mosley as a coverage backer for 2014 and beyond ranks right up there with the future of the quarterback position.

Time to make a move: While DePriest didn't perform poorly in 2012 (59 tackles, four tackles for loss), more production is needed from an inside linebacker who starts in both the base and nickel packages.

Best of the bunch: With base starter Nico Johnson moving on, hard to imagine Mosley not graduating to every down backer. Well, that and the fact that opponents who employ two back and/or two tight end personnel are becoming more and more difficult to find. As free agency in the NFL gets into full swing, keep an eye on contracts being handed out to linebackers cut from the same cloth as Mosley. Guys who can play in coverage will be the ones pulling down the big bucks.

Biggest upside: Along with Mosley, Hubbard and Devall will play large roles against spread offenses in the fall, with those employed by Texas A&M and Ole Miss quickly coming to mind.

Don't be shocked if: Devall's continued development could lead to more of a hand-on-the-ground role for Dickson, whose size and athleticism allow him to factor at both outside linebacker and defensive end. It's something he's already done in the four-down, dime rabbits look, so expanding those duties won't require much of a leap.

Lest we forget: True freshman linebackers have played meaningful snaps in each of Saban's six seasons at UA, with Devall being the latest to make his way on to the field. The outside positions could use another pass rusher and with depth inside a bit of question mark, chances are the streak will hit seven in 2013.

Also see:
Spring sneak peek: Wide recevier
Spring sneak peek: Tight end
Spring Sneak Peek: Offensive line
Spring Sneak Peek: Secondary
Spring Sneak Peek: Running back
Spring Sneak Peek: Defensive line
Spring Sneak Peek: Quarterback

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