Alabama's Isaiah Buggs busier than expected this season

Alabama's Isaiah Buggs busier than expected this season

October 13th, 2017 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Alabama defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs closes in on Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond during last Saturday night's 27-19 win by the Crimson Tide.

Photo by Kent Gidley Kent Gidley

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.

"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.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.