Buggs is busier than ex­pected this sea­son

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - WEEKEND BLITZ - BY DAVID PASCHALL STAFF WRITER

The plan al­ways was for Isaiah Buggs to play this sea­son on Alabama’s de­fen­sive front. Just maybe not this much. The 6-foot-5, 293-pound Buggs is in his first sea­son with the Crim­son Tide af­ter trans­fer­ring in Jan­uary from Mis­sis­sippi Gulf Coast Com­mu­nity Col­lege. He has started in five of Alabama’s first six games head­ing into Satur­day night’s show­down against Arkansas in Bryant-Denny Sta­dium and had fig­ured promi­nently up front with Da’Shawn Hand, Da’Ron Payne and Raek­won Davis.

Hand, how­ever, suf­fered an MCL strain in the 66-3 win over Ole Miss on Sept. 30, so Alabama did not have as much of a ro­ta­tion dur­ing last week’s trip to Texas A&M.

Buggs didn’t seem to mind, record­ing a whop­ping 10 tack­les in the Tide’s 27-19 win over the Ag­gies. That shat­tered his pre­vi­ous high of four against Colorado State.

“I think Isaiah has got­ten bet­ter and bet­ter ev­ery week, and he cer­tainly played his best game in this last game,” Alabama coach Nick Sa­ban said this week in a news con­fer­ence. “He’s a very in­stinc­tive player, and he’s very strong. He’s got ath­letic abil­ity, and he can fin­ish on a quar­ter­back.

“If you want to get to the next level, you’ve got to bust your tail and work hard. – ISAIAH BUGGS

“We just need to help him by mak­ing sure we’re ro­tat­ing him enough to keep him fresh.”

Hand will not play Satur­day, so a lot will be asked again of Buggs, Davis and Payne, with the likes of Josh Fra­zier and Quin­nen Wil­liams on standby.

While Hand and Payne ar­rived in Tuscaloosa as five-star tal­ents and Davis a high four-star prospect, Buggs had to travel a much dif­fer­ent path. Rated a low three-star prospect and the state of Louisiana’s No. 64 prospect in the 2015 class, Buggs left his home­town of Rus­ton for the ju­nior col­lege ranks.

He did so with no short­age of mo­ti­va­tion.

“It hum­bled me,” Buggs said be­fore this sea­son. “If you want to get to the next level, you’ve got to bust your tail and work hard. That’s what I did from my very first day at Gulf Coast.”

Buggs weighed 245 pounds com­ing out of Rus­ton High but quickly be­came a de­fen­sive men­ace. He had 59 tack­les, eight tack­les for loss and four sacks as a Gulf Coast fresh­man and racked up 75 tack­les, 10 tack­les for loss and 3.5 sacks last sea­son as a sopho­more.

Ri­vals.com rated Buggs the No. 1 ju­nior col­lege prospect na­tion­ally in the 2017 sign­ing class, while 247Sports.com ranked him No. 2 be­hind cur­rent Auburn quar­ter­back Jar­rett Stid­ham. Buggs picked the Crim­son Tide over Auburn and LSU.

His rea­son­ing? “Alabama’s de­fen­sive line has al­ways been pow­er­ful, and it’s al­ways been suc­cess­ful as far as get­ting in and get­ting out and to the next level,” he said. “The play­ers have al­ways bought into the pro­gram, and my goal has al­ways been to be­come not just a bet­ter player but a bet­ter man.

“This pro­gram teaches you to be­come a bet­ter player and a bet­ter man, be­cause one day foot­ball is go­ing to end, so you’ve got to know the steps you need to take when foot­ball ends.”

Since Buggs al­ready has 22 tack­les, three quar­ter­back hur­ries and half a sack for the Tide, it does not ap­pear his foot­ball ca­reer is con­clud­ing any time soon.

KENT GIDLEY/ALABAMA PHOTO

Alabama de­fen­sive line­man Isaiah Buggs closes in on Texas A&M quar­ter­back Kellen Mond dur­ing last Satur­day night’s 27-19 win for the topranked Crim­son Tide. Alabama hosts Arkansas this Satur­day.

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