Linebacker all over the place in win
By MICHAEL CASAGRANDE
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Rolando McClain was the only starting linebacker who didn’t change roles in the wake of Dont’a Hightower’s season-ending knee surgery.
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His productivity, however, took another step in Saturday’s 38-20 win.
His 12 tackles came just three shy of his career-high, and he was a factor in the three Wildcat turnovers.
“Most guys don’t have linebackers that are 258 (pounds) and run like that,” Wildcat coach Rich Brooks said. “He’s a big time player and I know they took a blow when they lost (Dont’a) Hightower, but it looks like McClain took up the slack for him a little bit.
The middle linebacker started with a five-tackle first quarter, and it only got better for McClain in the second quarter. It was McClain who punched the ball from the grasp of Kentucky’s Derrick Locke in the late-half fumble that turned into a 45-yard touchdown scored by Courtney Upshaw.
Then, on the second play of the second half, he picked off a Mike Hartline pass that led to a Mark Ingram touchdown run two plays later.
Just minutes after his interception, McClain was credited with an assist on an Eryk Anders interception. Hartline’s pass over the middle was already tipped when McClain jumped for it as if he were a basketball player.
The idea was to tip it to himself, but fellow linebacker Cory Reamer hit McClain as the ball landed in Anders’ arms.
When Alabama coach Nick Saban was asked about the linebackers sans Hightower, he went right to McClain.
“Well, Ro played outstanding,” Saban said.
The 12 tackles recorded by McClain against Kentucky only separated him further as Alabama’s leading tackler. Through five games, he has 36 followed by Mark Barron (30) and Javier Arenas (26).