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The Saban Top 100: No. 18 Reuben Foster

The Saban Top 100: No. 18 Reuben Foster

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The Saban Top 100: No. 18 Reuben Foster

BamaCentral is ranking the top 100 players of the Nick Saban era at Alabama over the course of the 2020 football season

18] Reuben Foster, LB

  • Won 2016 Butkus Award
  • 2016 Unanimous All-American
  • 2016 All-SEC
  • First-round pick 2017 NFL Draft
  • During final season led the Crimson Tide with 115 tackles, including 60 solo. Also had 13.0 tackles for loss, five sacks. eight quarterback hurries and two pass breakups
  • Finished career with 211 tackles, including 23 for a loss and seven sacks
  • Team captain

You look at the names, and it makes it really easy to understand how Alabama keeps landing top-notch recruits at the linebacker positions.

Rolando McClain, Dont’a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw, Nico Johnson, Trey DePriest, C.J. Mosley and Reggie Ragland. All had stellar collegiate careers. All played for the Crimson Tide since 2007. All won at least one national championship.

It’s a proud legacy that formed during the Nick Saban era at Alabama, and one that doesn’t appear close to slowing down.

“It’s an honor to know that my name is going to be mentioned along with the greatness of Alabama, the dynasty, and I’m part of that dynasty,” said another name added to that impressive list, Reuben Foster.

“It’s amazing that I’ll be remembered.”

Foster won’t be the only linebacker from the 2016 Crimson Tide landing elite status. Ryan Anderson and Tim Williams are right there with them, even though neither had started a game for Alabama before their senior seasons.

Williams kept making tackles in the backfield and notching sacks, while Anderson was imposing force on the other side.

Between them, though, Foster went sideline-to-sideline on a regular basis, chasing down anyone and everything, and doing all that he could to shut down the opposition. For example, he had a team-high 11 tackles at LSU when star running back Leonard Fournette managed just 35 rushing yards on 17 carries, and had no gain longer than nine yards.

“Everybody knows who Reuben Foster is,” said Ragland, who still calls Foster his “little brother” even though they’re not related. “He does his job. He’s a leader. He leads the team in tackles. He gets everyone lined up.

“That’s the stuff you don’t see. He’s getting everyone lined up, he’s getting everyone ready, he’s getting the call to everybody. He’s the leader of that defense, and if you’re not doing your job he’s going to say something to you.”

Foster, who inherited that leadership mantle from Ragland, also didn’t appear to have a weakness in his game. During a time when the spread had never been more popular, he was a unique blend of someone who could drop back into pass coverage, attack the run and hit harder than just about anyone else in football.

He would have thrived during any football era, but might be the prototypical linebacker for today’s game due to his speed.

"Reuben plays well whether we're playing against a direct run team or a spread team,” Saban said. “I think that there were guys in the past who would play better against direct-run teams and struggle a little more when you got to the spread -type teams because you have to play more effectively in space. Reuben just happens to be a guy that can do both of those things very well.

“C.J. Mosley was the same kind of player here. Does that mean that he's a more effective guy? Maybe more all-around, more versatile would be a better way to say it. But he's certainly done a really good job for us all year long in both scenarios of whatever we've played.”

Consequently, Foster established himself as a frontrunner for Butkus Award, which annually goes to college football’s best linebacker. Ragland placed second the previous year, while McClain won in 2009, and Mosley in 2013.

Overall, during five of the seven seasons Alabama had a consensus/unanimous All-American at linebacker, which easily topped the nation. No other program had more than two.

Of course that’s just the recent history. Alabama’s rich legacy also includes Derrick Thomas, Cornelius Bennett, Lee Roy Jordan and Woodrow Lowe, who will collectively stand up against any four linebackers in history. All have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and Thomas might be the best linebacker the game has ever seen.

It’s quite a legacy, and each made a name for himself, including Foster. When he was being recruited he sort of wanted to become Alabama’s version of Ray Lewis or another Rolando McClain (“He was a great linebacker,” he said).

Before he was done he had a better idea.

“Be myself, really,” Foster said. “Make my own brand.”


The Saban Top 100 will be revealed over the course of the 2020 football season, with the top players unveiled one a day as part of BamaCentral's 25 Days of Christmas celebration.

The series thus far:

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Introduction

No. 19: Chance Warmack 

No. 20: Mark Barron

No. 21: Jonah Williams

No. 22: Da'Ron Payne

No. 23: Ryan Kelly

No. 24: Landon Collins

No. 25: Cam Robinson

26-30: Terrence Cody, Calvin Ridley, Javier Arenas, Reggie Ragland, Jedrick Wills Jr.

31-35: Dee Milliner, D.J. Fluker, Marlon Humphrey, Rashad Evans, A'Shawn Robinson

36-40: Rashaan Evans, Dre Kirkpatrick, Marcell Dareus, Eddie Jackson, O.J. Howard

41-45: Courtney Upshaw, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Henry Ruggs III, Jarran Reed, Xavier McKinney

46-50: Dalvin Tomlinson, Antoine Caldwell, Kareem Jackson, Cyrus Kouandjio, Trevon Diggs

51-55: Mike Johnson, T.J. Yeldon, Ronnie Harrison, Damien Harris, JK Scott

56-60: Ross Pierschbacher, Eddie Lacy, Bradley Bozeman, Ryan Anderson, Glen Coffee

61-65: Greg McElroy, Josh Jacobs, Anfernee Jennings, James Carpenter, Kenyan Drake

66-70: Terrell Lewis, Blake Sims, Christian Miller, Irv Smith Jr,, Tim Williams

71-75: Mack Wilson, ArDarius Stewart, Deionte Thompson, Raekwon Davis, Jalston Fowler

76-80: Josh Chapman, Cyrus Jones, Kevin Norwood, Isaiah Buggs, Jake Coker

81-85: Bo Scarbrough, Anthony Averett, Leigh Tiffin, Ed Stinson, DeQuan Menzie

86-90: Jesse Williams, Shaun Dion Hamilton, William Vlachos, Da'Shawn Hand, Arie Kouandjio

91-95: Nico Johnson, Wallace Gilberry, DJ Hall, Vinnie Sunseri, Quinton Dial

96-100: Trey DePriest, Damion Square, Christion Jones, John Parker Wilson, Simeon Castille 

18] Reuben Foster, LB

  • Won 2016 Butkus Award
  • 2016 Unanimous All-American
  • 2016 All-SEC
  • First-round pick 2017 NFL Draft
  • During final season led the Crimson Tide with 115 tackles, including 60 solo. Also had 13.0 tackles for loss, five sacks. eight quarterback hurries and two pass breakups
  • Finished career with 211 tackles, including 23 for a loss and seven sacks
  • Team captain
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