As was previously discussed, the basic role of the defensive line in a 3-4 scheme is to control multiple offensive linemen and tie up blockers. The d-line wants to free up a large, athletic linebacker corps to make plays all over the field. There are four linebacker positions in Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart's defense. Inside is a Mike linebacker that plays to the tight end, or strong side of the formation, and a Willy linebacker that plays to the weak side of the formation. Outside is a Drop or Sam linebacker that lines up to the strong side, usually over the tight end, and a Jack linebacker that lines up on the weak side of the formation. Often the Jack is in position to rush the passer.
The Alabama philosophy on linebacker play requires hybrid players. Often, Saban recruits players who have not played the traditional linebacker position in high school. Instead, they target gifted athletes, with unique skill sets, that demonstrate a high level of coachability. Similar to Bud Foster's scheme, the base 3-4 is assignment driven football, and the Alabama staff looks for players who have strengths that will lend themselves to performance in their system.