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December 11, 2012Comparisons are a tricky task, one that University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban doesn't have the time or patience.
It's natural, however, for fans or college football analysts to make comparisons between current players and past greats. Is Amari Cooper the next Julio Jones? Is Landon Collins the next Mark Barron? So on and so forth.
One freshman who drew favorable comparisons to a former UA All-American is linebacker Denzel Devall. The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder from Bastrop, La., played in all 13 of the Crimson Tide's games, registering 17 tacklers, including three for loss, two sacks, three quarterback hurries and one fumble recovery.
He wears No. 30, Dont'a Hightower's former number, but Hightower isn't the former Alabama linebacker Devall is being compared to. That distinction goes to former Jack linebacker and current Baltimore Raven Courtney Upshaw.
"That's a high standard for me," Devall said. "Every day I strive to get better and better and do my best. I'm just trying to do my job.
"It's been a great year. I can't complain. I've just been doing what the coaches asked of me, and it's paying off."
Devall earned playing time at Upshaw's old spot, rushing the quarterback as an outside linebacker and as a defensive end.
Most freshmen that contribute their first season enroll early during the spring, a la T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper. It gives them a chance to acclimate to life as a college freshman and provides an opportunity to go through spring practice.
Devall enrolled during the summer and immediately got to work on making an impression.
"Adjusting to the team and stuff took the whole month of June, just getting to know everyone and getting accustomed to everything," Devall said. "Once that was over I was pretty much at ease. Then came camp and I had to get accustomed to how we practice and stuff. I guess the first week of camp got me right and ever since then I've been straight."
He said he knew he belonged at this level in his first game.
"It always feels good when you get in and then you get out there and do good," he said. "You're like, 'Yeah, I'm ready.'"
He said he lost 20 pounds but added muscle in his first couple of months on campus.
The potential to rush the quarterback is evident from his physical tools. Now he must master different rush techniques that made Upshaw a more well-rounded pass rusher.
"What I excel at is it'd have to be my get off and speed," Devall said. "Without your get off and speed you really can't be an effective pass rusher. I try every day to practice on my get off and speed. All the other things, the moves and stuff will come with time."
Reach Aaron Suttles at email@example.com or at 205-722-0229.
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