Alabama native amassed more than 500 tackles in his high school career, garnering Parade All-American honors as a senior. Started all 13 games as a true freshman, starting three at Mike (strong inside) linebacker, and recorded 69 tackles, 1.5-.5 with 10 pass breakups and two interception touchdowns. Started 6-of-11 games played at weak inside linebacker in '11 and tallied 37-4.5-2 with two pass breakups and an interception. Dislocated his right elbow against Arkansas and sat out against Florida and Vanderbilt. Played all 14 games in '12, starting nine as the Tide's Will 'backer in sub packages, and produced 107-8-4 with two pass breakups, two interceptions and a forced fumble. Suffered a dislocated hip in the BCS Championship Game against LSU, then had offseason shoulder surgery to repair a torn right labrum. Won the Butkus Award (nation's top linebacker) and was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year (coaches) in '13 -- started all 13 games at weak inside linebacker and was Alabama's leading tackler for the second consecutive season, racking up 108-9-0 with five pass breakups and a forced fumble. Also was a finalist for the Lombardi and Nagurski awards. Team captain won a pair of national championships. Did not bench press or run the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine because of a right shoulder injury.
Exceptional instincts -- triggers fast downhill. Outstanding urgency. Plays with very good knee bend, balance and base. Secure, drive-through tackler. Hits with explosion and jars ball carriers on impact. Excellent lateral agility -- flows fast and ranges to the sideline. Exceptional weight-room worker with good functional play strength -- plays bigger than his size. Outstanding eyes and anticipation vs. the run. Very good coverage awareness with the ball in front of him -- clings to tight ends passing through zones and blankets speed backs in man coverage. Respected leadership presence -- lines up his teammates and directs traffic. Film junkie. Excellent attitude, effort, field intensity and overall energy. Exceptional football and personal character. Highly competitive. Humble, selfless team player. Outstanding football IQ. Scheme-diverse and versatile. Strong special-teams coverage performer.
Has a narrow build. Has been slowed by elbow, hip and shoulder injuries throughout his career and long-term durability will require thorough inspection by medical examiners. Gets hung up on the blitz (shoulder stiffness) and must learn how to use more finesse picking a side instead of relying on bull power and striking blockers down the middle. Can learn to do a better job shooting his hands to shock defenders and disengage from blocks. Could be challenged matching up down the field with his back to the ball vs. flex TEs in the slot (man coverage). Could stand to become a more vocal leader.
Round 1 (top 15)
Smart, instinctive, fast-flowing, every-down linebacker capable of manning any position in a "40" front or steering a defense from the weak side in a "30" front, where he starred for a national-championship defense as a junior and carried the Tide as a senior. Has the football temperament, desire and work habits to emerge as a tackling machine in the pros. Has Pro Bowl potential.