April 8, 2008

Huber takes to linebacker

Nick Saban has never been accused of having a singer's voice.

But when Alabama's head football coach approached Baron Huber about a switch to linebacker, it was music, at least, to Huber's ears.

"I really like linebacker - that's kind of where my roots are," Huber said. "Coach Saban approached me and asked me if I thought it'd be a good idea, and I thought it would be great, so I decided to make the change. I'm looking at it as something to be permanent."

After two years at the fullback position, Huber is finally back at the position he had originally hoped to play when he signed with Alabama out of Knoxville, Tenn., in 2005. He spent just a few practices at linebacker under then-linebackers coach Joe Kines in fall camp of 2005, then moved to defensive end for the balance of a redshirt season. When the Crimson Tide went to Dallas for the Cotton Bowl at season's end, Huber was moved to fullback.

"He's a bright guy, he's a very conscientious guy and hopefully, we'll be able to make an evaluation quickly," Saban said last week. "We want to get the best guys on the field and see where they can contribute the most. It's just something we want to take a look at."

With more than two years of rust at the position, however, the transition won't be easy. Huber said that while he is comfortable with his instincts at linebacker after the snap, he is struggling with pre-snap reads and responsibilities. And the competition in his initial practices last week - All-SEC tackle Andre Smith - wasn't exactly accomodating.

"That was a little unfair - I was back on defense, first day after two and a half years, and I was lining up on Andre every play," Huber said with a laugh.

On Saturday during the team's second scrimmage of the spring, Huber recorded a sack.

"They ran a boot coming back to me and I read the fake and I just decided to go right at the quarterback," Huber said. "... Coach Saban asked me if it was my first sack, I said 'Yes sir, it is.' He said 'How did it feel?' and I said 'Great, I'm going to go try to get another one'."

Working mostly with the second group, Huber spent time at the 'Jack' position last week and moved to the weakside spot this week. If the move becomes permanent, Huber said his ideal role would be in a run-stopping capacity.

"When we play teams like Tennessee, Mississippi State, Arkansas, team who like to try to pound the ball down your throat, [Saban] feels like I can come in there and help out with a physical presence taking on fullbacks and tight ends and guards," Huber said.

With one starting linebacker in medical limbo (Ezekial Knight), one untested in game action (Jimmy Johns) and third indefinitely suspended (Prince Hall), there is plenty of opportunity for playing time this fall.

"I think there's a real good opportunity - a lot is going to depend on how I grasp the playbook and be able to apply it," Huber said. "How I react and retain what I've learned."

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