July 24, 2006

Bama has big shoes to fill at linebacker

Seventy-six and 345.

With Freddie Roach and DeMeco Ryans off to the National Football League, those figures represent the number of career starts and tackles Alabama defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Joe Kines will be looking to replace this season.

During their time at the Capstone, Roach and Ryans evolved into one of the Southeastern Conference's most productive linebacker tandems.

But now they're gone.

The good news is that Juwan Simpson returns with 20 weakside starts to his credit. The bad news is that until his legal situation is resolved, exactly when Simpson will make his next start is unclear.

As good as Ryans was, replacing Roach may prove to be more difficult. Looking to fill Roach's shoes in the middle are two players -- Matt Collins and Prince Hall -- who are severely lacking in the experience department. Collins played limited snaps behind Roach last season while also contributing on special teams. Hall spent his first fall in Tuscaloosa working on the scout defense as a redshirt. The duo battled throughout the spring for the starting job, and while Collins came out of drills the same way he went in (atop the depth chart) Hall had narrowed the gap by A-Day.

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