December 9, 2011

Ragland eyes possible position change

MONTGOMERY | When Reggie Ragland gets to the University of Alabama this summer, he's got one thing on his mind: play early and make an impact.

Linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Jerrell Harris are both seniors, and the Crimson Tide may also lose junior Dont'a Hightower if he opts for the NFL Draft, giving Ragland, a Rivals100 player, the chance to see the field early at Alabama.

However, Ragland isn't the only linebacker committed to UA in this 2012 recruiting class.

After Denzell Devall's commitment to Alabama on Wednesday, the Tide now has five players at the position, including Ragland's teammates at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game this week, Ryan Anderson and Tyler Hayes. All three have the same goal in mind.

"We're talking about coming in and starting," Ragland said. "That's our thing because they lose a lot of linebackers, and if we come in and get a chance to start, that would be great for us.

"It's competition. Everybody is just going to have to come out and play. If you don't come out and play, you're going to be sitting on the bench, so you're going to have to come out and compete for a position or a spot or some type of playing time."

With a potential logjam at linebacker, UA head coach Nick Saban brought up the idea of Ragland playing the tight end position next year, a spot he played on and off for Bob Jones High School.

"We were talking about linebacker, and he asked what I thought about tight end," Ragland said. "I said, 'Coach, it doesn't even matter. I just want to get on the field and play.' Whatever gets me on the field, I want to play."

At 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, Ragland has the size to play the position, and he also has the athleticism and jumping ability he needs from his background in basketball.

"I didn't get the ball thrown to much this year, but if it had been thrown to me more, I definitely could've showed why I would be such a good tight end," he said. "I've got the size, the speed. I can run. I can jump with anybody, and if I can get to the ball, it's caught."

Thomasville head coach Jack Hankins, Ragland's position coach this week, believes the in-state star can play anywhere he wants to, including tight end, because of his athleticism and understanding of the game.

"He's such a great athlete and he's so smart. He could probably play wherever he was needed to play," Hankins said. "He played tight end in ninth and 10th grade. Nick Saban knows a whole lot more about where to play him than Jack Hankins does, but Reggie's a football player."

Alabama may not need Ragland to make the transition now after three-star tight end Kurt Freitag committed to the Crimson Tide on Monday. Freitag was the first tight end to join the 2012 class.

And if it were up to Ragland, he'd rather get on the field early at his natural linebacker position. Tight end doesn't quite offer the same opportunity to hit someone.

"There's a little contact at tight end, but at tight end, you've got to be a prima donna, too," Ragland said. "You don't want to get knocked off your route if somebody gets their hands on you, so you have to get out of the way and go for the ball. Anytime, you're on offense, you don't want to get hit period."

Ragland plans to enroll at UA over the summer, and he is willing to play wherever the coaches need him whether it be at linebacker or at tight end.

Reach Greg Ostendorf at greg@tidesports.com.

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