Scouting a prospect is often compared to putting together a giant puzzle piece. That puzzle piece contains four moving parts that must be studied and taken into consideration. Those four parts include statistics, film, athletic testing and character. With statistics and film available online and the NFL Combine being bigger than ever, it is easier than ever for the public to come to their own conclusions on prospects. A prospect’s character is one area that remains very difficult to explore, unless you are a professional scout, but through intensive research, perhaps the task is not as impossible as it seems.
The 2018 NCAA season was a big season for Alabama junior linebacker Mack Wilson. It would be his first real shot at being the undisputed signal caller for the Alabama defense. Being promoted to signal caller for the Alabama defense is no small promotion. It is a job with extremely high expectations as Wilson would be expected to step up to the play of his predecessors before him. The list of previous Alabama linebackers drafted since 2010 include the likes of Raashan Evans, Reuben Foster, Reggie Ragland, C.J. Mosely and Dont’a Hightower. There is arguably no harder position to be called into in the NCAA than middle linebacker for Alabama but Wilson was ready to prove he could handle the role.
In an article from The Athletic, Wilson’s former defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt spoke of his linebacker’s growth and maturity in accepting his new role as signal caller.
“In the two years I coached Mack, he really has grown as a player from probably when he first got there, he didn’t want to make any calls, until I left there, he wanted to make all the calls,” Pruitt said.
Wilson’s commitment to his craft meant that he had to limit out distractions heading into the 2018 season and as a result he refused to use his social media for over a month.
“I always go into the offseason being able to lock in and just not have any distractions. That way I can get everybody on the same page and get my team together and stuff like that,” says Wilson.
Through the first six games of the season, Alabama was undefeated but that was not good enough for Wilson. His defense had just allowed 31 points to Arkansas but in a character revealing moment, the linebacker took to Twitter to accept responsibility for the defense’s shortcomings.
Wilson’s preparation and execution backed up his words, as the linebacker alluded to taking on more responsibilities to help strength the Alabama defense, as revealed to Bama Central.
“I had to step up and study more film. I was here extra every night. I’d go to tutoring and come back and get extra work that helped us tremendously. I was able to make the calls and checks, I knew what plays were coming.”
The scoreboard reflected Wilson’s statements as Alabama allowed just 31 combined points over their next four games.
Though he was still undecided about his NFL future at the time, Wilson made sure to not only command the men sharing the field with him but also the younger players waiting in the wings. A story from AL.com gives insight into Wilson’s mindset when it comes to preparing players such as Markail Benton and Jaylen Moody.
“I try to stay on them because, like I said, they get frustrated sometimes, which young linebackers are going to do because they don’t know what to do and coach gets on them because they have to make the calls because they’re playing the Mike linebacker. Playing the Mike linebacker is pretty hard because you have to make all the calls. It kind of gets frustrating throughout those times but I try to stay on them and let them know you have to get extra film and you have to get extra things so you can learn at least the basics of this defense and just play fast.”
After the 2018 season concluded, it was easy to tell that Wilson had not only stepped up with his production but also with his leadership. Being asked to replicate the success of many successful linebackers before you with little preparation is no easy task, but Wilson rose to the occasion. The Alabama linebacker is well on his way to one day continuing his work and leading an NFL defense as they go into battle.