Reuben Foster: Analyzing Whether Auburn or Alabama Is Best Fit for 5-Star LB

Michael Felder@InTheBleachersNational CFB Lead WriterJuly 13, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31:  Head coach Gene Chizik of the Auburn Tigers against the Virginia Cavaliers during the 2011 Chick Fil-A Bowl at Georgia Dome on December 31, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Yesterday, Reuben Foster, the nation's top linebacker prospect and one of the best players in the country, flipped his commitment from Nick Saban's Crimson Tide to their hated rivals, the Auburn Tigers. Gene Chizik, Trooper Taylor, Tommy Thigpen and Brian VanGorder were able to convince the new Auburn, Alabama, resident to pledge to the Family. 

To add a little insult to injury, the linebacker did a little troll job on the Alabama faithful as he essentially copied the speech running back TJ Yeldon gave to Auburn fans after flipping to head to Alabama a year ago. Well played by Foster, and in the grand scheme of things, a little levity is generally a nice thing.

Alabama fans will invariably say they don't need Foster, while Auburn fan talks about how Gene Chizik bested Saban for an elite recruit. But let's look at the player. Does the flip make sense?

A quick look at Alabama's crowded linebacking depth chart as compared to Auburn's barren ranks certainly speaks to more field time early for Foster. That's not an issue of running from competition as some Alabama fans would paint it. Rather, it is seeing an extremely talented guy like C.J. Mosley running with the twos and noticing the wealth of backers.

Depth chart aside, Reuben Foster has made a choice to go with the 4-3 scheme of Brian VanGorder, over the 3-4 scheme of Nick Saban and Kirby Smart. With Rolando McClain and Dont'a Hightower already in the NFL and out of Saban's system, it would seem that Alabama is the no-brainer better fit for Foster, a likely interior linebacker at the next level. 

However, Brian VanGorder just got done rebuilding the Atlanta Falcons defense and his work with Curtis Lofton, among others, stands out as what he can do with a linebacker. Reuben Foster is an explosive centerpiece to build around, and for some players, being that centerpiece is a solid move to maximize what they want out of a college career.

Instead of being the next great linebacker plugged into Nick Saban's system, Foster has the chance to be VanGorder's "guy" who resurrects the Auburn defensive tradition.

In the 4-3, Foster has the opportunity to become a truly "instant" tackle machine. He'll be the sole man in the middle, getting free run-throughs on the front and backsides, and have two big defensive linemen in front of him to protect him from guards and the center. He has a shot to be more sideline to sideline and play behind the line from the Mike position than from the inside linebacker spot. 

Both systems have great benefits. As Saban's system has shown, he can get linebackers to the NFL. Brian VanGorder brings more recent NFL success and a system that could land Reuben Foster near the top of the total tackles ranks.

The 3-4 and the 4-3 are great systems, and Foster has the ability to excel in both of them. It will ultimately boil down to which system the 2013 standout linebacker prefers.