Saunders, Knight move to linebacker
By Josh Cooper
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TUSCALOOSA — Alabama defensive end Bobby Greenwood is a little envious of Keith Saunders and Ezekial Knight.
Most of Greenwood's work goes on in the proverbial trenches of a football field as one of the first defenders to strike the offensive line.
And because he may have a 300-pound lineman roll over his knee, Greenwood needs to wear some sort of protection on that particular joint.
Former defensive ends Saunders and Knight had to do the same thing. Not anymore, now that they have moved to outside linebacker as part of head coach Nick Saban's defensive scheme.
"They're enjoying it," Greenwood said. "They'll still help out the D-line, too. We get a lot of double-teams on pass rush, but it kind of gets you jealous. They don't have those knee braces on like we do."
While many different ideas can be hatched with the defense, Saban's system is primarily one with three defensive linemen and four linebackers.
The 3-4 was something that Saban ran primarily with the Miami Dolphins. In Miami, he had a player in Jason Taylor, who played defensive end. At 6-foot-4, 255 pounds, Taylor was moved from the line to be a pass-rushing outside linebacker.
Taylor was named defensive player of the year for 2006 with a 131/2 sacks while the Dolphins finished fourth last season in the NFL in total defense.
With Alabama, Saban detected that both Saunders and Knight had the same kind of "tweener" body type. Both weren't exactly linebackers nor defensive linemen.
"Zeke Knight isn't a defensive lineman. He is an outside backer-body type, and so is (Keith) Saunders," Saban said.
"Those guys are doing a good job, and we're not getting them beat up playing over the tackle all the time. But we can slide them and keep them on the edge more by doing it the way we're doing it."
The move to outside linebacker means another position change for the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Knight, who will be experiencing his third position since coming to Tuscaloosa.
Knight played wide receiver his freshman and sophomore years before making the switch to defensive end last year.
He did not play following Alabama's loss at Arkansas because of a heart problem.
The 6-foot-3 248-pound Saunders has been a defensive end during his tenure at Alabama.
Saunders acknowledged that the concepts of both positions are the same.
"I'm playing stand up and down, dropping and rushing the passer," Saunders said. "I'm enjoying it. It's a whole new concept, but everybody is getting it."
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