Many of you probably remember the recruiting saga of Reuben Foster. He initially committed to Alabama before transferring to Auburn High School and flipping his commitment to Auburn University. Many months and an Auburn tattoo - which he turned into a tribute for a murdered cousin - later, Foster flipped back to Alabama.
He saw playing time right away, primarily on special teams his first two years. His hard-hitting tackling made for some highlights, but small injuries kept nagging him. He fixed his technique, though, before the 2015 and earned the starting gig next to Reggie Ragland. Not only was Foster second on the team in tackles (behind Ragland), he was second on the team in pass break-ups (behind Minkah Fitzpatrick); and despite only registering 1 sack, he had 7 more tackles for a loss (his 8 total ranked 4th on the team).
3rd and 3: Foster is one of two linebackers, along with Reggie Ragland. He’s lined up on the weakside with the running back. Foster sees the running back, Dare Ogunbowale go out for a pass and immediately moves to intercept him. Unfortunately, he isn’t ready for Ogunbowale to break on an out route; and he’s several steps away when QB Joel Stave hits the back for an easy first down.
2nd and 8: Foster is again on the weakside. He blitzes, and the running back picks him up but isn’t in the best of positions to handle the block. Foster shoves through him and forces Stave to scramble to the right. Right into Jonathan Allen’s open arms. Here's another shot.
3rd and 16: Foster is on the weakside. He takes a couple steps forward as he sees the running back move up behind the line, but he identifies the developing screen quickly. Foster is able to adjust course and heads to cut off Ogunbowale before a lineman can get his hands on him. He hits him in the waist and grabs a hold of his left leg, bringing him down for a loss.
1st and 10: First play of the game. Foster is on the weakside over the left guard. Tennessee runs a counter, and RB Jalen Hurd cuts back to the weakside. The H-back is the lead blocker through where the hole should be, but Foster is already filling it. He hits the blocker with force, stands him up, and shoves him back. Hurd has nowhere to go except into the backs of his linemen. Foster, and others, get a hold of him; and it’s a short gain.
3rd and 10: Foster is the lone linebacker; and he’s lined up behind the defensive tackle, Jonathan Allen. He moves to cover the running back but sees him blocking and Dobbs rolling in his direction. Foster changes gears and aims for the quarterback. The running back tries to block him, but Foster’s momentum drives right through the block. He gets his first and only sack of the year. Tennessee now has to settle for a field goal attempt, which is no good.
1st and 10: Foster and Ragland are the linebackers, with Foster on the weakside. The right tackle comes up to block him, but he gets low and stacks and sheds the blocker. He moves to his left, following Jalen Hurd. Foster is the first to make contact, and Humphrey is next to help secure the tackle.
3rd and 19: Alabama’s in dime, and Foster is the lone linebacker. The running back doesn’t go out for a pass, so Foster basically ends up spying Dobbs. Dobbs has to scramble and eventually runs to his right. Foster follows. Jalen Hurd tries to block him, but Foster keeps him at bay with one arm. When Dobbs cuts back in some, Foster casually flings Hurd aside and homes in for the tackle.
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2nd and 8: Tennessee motions Alvin Kamara from right to left to try and get the defense moving that way. It’s an empty backfield for Dobbs, who gets a called QB run. With no running back to watch, Foster keeps his eyes on Dobbs and moves around the line as Dobbs takes off. Nobody blocks Foster; and he has an open shot at Dobbs, who can’t avoid the tackle. Loss of a few for the Vols.
3rd and 10: Foster is again the only linebacker. He times the snap fairly well and hits the A gap (between the center and guard) on a blitz. He shows off that power once more, driving the center back and back, causing Dobbs to take off running. Dobbs forces an ill-advised pass while on the run, and Minkah Fitzpatrick drops an easy interception.
1st and 10: Foster is on the weakside, almost directly behind A’Shawn Robinson. Florida sends a receiver in motion, left to right; but it’s a designed QB run for Treon Harris. Foster diagnoses it and heads to the edge. The tight end was coming around to this side but completely whiffs the block. Foster now has an open shot at Harris, and he wraps him up for a big loss.
2nd and 11: Foster stays back in coverage, watching the quarterback. Treon Harris has to scramble to his left after Ryan Anderson beats a block, and Foster changes direction effortlessly and heads to cut Harris off. He gets to the corner and keeps bouncing outside to prevent Harris from getting the edge. Ryan Anderson chases Harris down and gets the tackle, but Foster helped keep this play from going anywhere.
1st and 10: Foster is on the left of the Alabama defense. He starts backpedaling on the snap; and it’s a short pass to TE Jake McGee, Foster’s man. He heads back too far to the outside, and McGee is able to loop inside and leaves Foster grasping at him in vain. Not exactly the greatest coverage and reaction by Foster.
3rd and 10: Foster is the Will again; and he drops back into coverage, rolling in the same direction as Treon Harris does. Harris starts to run towards the right but has to loop back to the left. Foster comes charging in, though; and catches up to Harris in the backfield, dropping him for a loss of 1.
3rd and 5: Alabama is in dime formation, and Foster is the one linebacker. He’s lined up near the left tackle and the slot receiver (Jordan Leggett), and he drops back into coverage on the snap. Leggett runs a shallow crossing route, and Foster follows. Foster has to get in close to avoid an attempted pick by Hunter Renfrow, crossing from the other direction; and he ends up wrapping his arm around Leggett, drawing the pass interference. First down Clemson.
2nd and 6: Clemson has five wide, and Foster moves to the right of the defense to cover the slot receiver on that side. Foster stays right on the receiver and is in good position while Ryan Anderson and D.J. Pettway come close to sacking QB Deshaun Watson. Watson somehow escapes Anderson’s grasp and nimbly avoids first Pettway and then Jarran Reed. Foster sheds the receiver’s block and makes a great tackle to prevent an even longer run. Frustrating play to watch, but Foster does a good job personally.
1st and 15: Clemson motions WR Artavis Scott left to right, hoping to get the defense shifting in that direction. Foster’s having none of it, though. He takes off for the running back as the ball is snapped. By the time Watson pitches it and Gallman has it secured, Foster is already racing into the backfield. Gallman has no chance, and Foster brings him down for a five yard loss.
1st and 10: Clemson is in hurry-up mode after a huge completion got them inside Alabama territory in the waning seconds of the first half. Foster hangs tight, watching what the running back, Zac Brooks does. Once Brooks goes out to provide a check down for Watson, Foster closes in. Watson does dump it to the Brooks, and Foster slams into him right after he catches. Clemson has to take a timeout.
2nd and 8: Watson fakes the handoff to Zac Brooks and rolls right. Foster initially follows suit, but he sees Brooks slip out and go downfield. He reverses course and gets right in on Brooks. With Foster right there, Watson has to try and throw it deeper; and he places it just a little too deep. Good job by Foster.