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Crimson Tide Top 5: Linebackers

Throughout the month of June, Bama Central writers will pick the best five players in each Alabama sport, and for each position group in football

Trying to put together a top-five list of Alabama linebackers is like attempting to eat one Oreo cookie and ignore the rest of the sleeve.

It’s almost impossible to do.

Here are three examples of just how difficult the selection process was:

Rolando McClain won the 2009 Butkus Award and was also named the SEC Defensive player of the Year. McClain helped lead Alabama to an undefeated season and the 2009 national championship.

He didn’t make the top five.

Dont’a Hightower was a two-time captain, consensus All-American, first-round draft pick and the leader of the 2011 defense that may have been the best in college football history, which led the nation in all four major statistical categories (total, scoring, rushing, pass-efficiency defense).

He didn’t make the list despite all of his Super Bowl rings.

Reuben Foster also won the Butkus Award, was a unanimous All-American, team captain and first-round draft pick. During his final season he led the Crimson Tide with 115 tackles, including 60 solo, to go with 13.0 tackles for loss, five sacks, eight quarterback hurries and two pass breakups.


Alabama’s had a lot of great players at the position (Linebacker U?) including Keith McCants, Barry Krauss, Reggie Ragland and Courtney Upshaw.

Here’s the top 5, in reverse order:

5. C.J. Mosley

This could easily be Hightower or McClain, but Mosley was a two-time All-American (once consensus, the other unanimous), the 2013 SEC Defensive Player and won the Butkus Award.

He was credited with 107 tackles in 2012, and 108 in 2013, both of which led the Crimson Tide and was a team captain.

Mosley gets the nod due to his longevity and versatility.

4. Woodrow Lowe

He’s one of only two Crimson Tide players to be a three-time All-American selection (1973-75). Statistically, his best year was as a sophomore, when he had 134 tackles, including six for a loss, and three interceptions to help lead Alabama to the national championship.

During his four years, Alabama never failed to win the Southeastern Conference championship, and he played in two Sugar Bowls, one Orange Bowl and a Cotton Bowl.

Lowe, who was Alabama's all-time leading tackler with 315 when he finished his career, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

3. Cornelius Bennett

Bennett was a three-time all-conference selection, two-time All-American and named defensive player of the game at both the 1985 Aloha Bowl and the1986 Sun Bowl. In 1986 he finished seventh in voting for the Heisman Trophy, won the Lombardi Trophy and was also named the SEC Player of the Year.

For his collegiate career, Bennett tallied 287 tackles, 21½ sacks, and three fumble recoveries.

He also has a signature play, “The Sack,” when he crushed quarterback Steve Beuerlein during Alabama’s first win over Notre Dame.

2. Lee Roy Jordan

Here’s how good Jordan was, he placed fourth for the 1962 Heisman Trophy. Granted, he also played on offense for the Crimson Tide, but at center.

During his career, Alabama compiled a 29-2-2 record, and he subsequently was the sixth pick in the 1963 NFL Draft. But Crimson Tide fans best remember him for his last game in the Orange Bowl. Against Oklahoma on New Year’s Day, Jordan was credited with 31 tackles to lead the 17-0 shutout.

Jordan was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.

1. Derrick Thomas

Officially, Arizona State's Terrell Suggs holds the NCAA's single-season sacks record with 24 in 2002. It’s considered one of those records that will probably never be broken.

However, Thomas had 27 sacks in 1988, a dozen years before the NCAA recognized the sack as a statistic, and six years after the NFL had formerly started counting them.

The season before, Thomas had 18 sacks. He notched 52 during his collegiate career, to go with 68 tackles for a loss and five blocked kicks.

“The Sackman” was a unanimous All-American, won the 1988 Butkus Award and was the fourth-overall selection in the 1989 NFL Draft.

Thomas, who died in 2000 at the age of 33, was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009, and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014.

The Tide Top 5 will appear every day during the month of June on BamaCentral