Reuben Foster's offseason of change

LA GRANGE, Ga. -- ESPNU Watch List OLB Reuben Foster has been blessed with size, speed and athletic ability. The 6-2, 228-pounder from La Grange (Ga.) Troup County is physical and often times violent on the gridiron.

And he's only getting better and better.

"Reuben finally gets it," Troup County coach Charles Flowers said. "He finally sees the big picture. Sure, he's bigger, faster and stronger than ever. But now he's our leader. Now he studies the game more than I have ever seen him do before. His biggest improvement is that now he's so much more knowledgeable about the game, our defense and what everyone's responsibility is on each play. He has finally become the quarterback of our defense."

There's no denying that Foster made an immediate impact on the Troup defense when he showed up as a freshman. He made plays from his very first snap. He wowed his coaches, teammates and fans with his bone crushing tackles. He was an instant hit from the very beginning. But he was reluctant to become a team leader.

That all changed this offseason.

"One day coach sat me down," Foster said. "We started to watch some film and he was asking me about what everyone was doing on defense. He was asking me what I was seeing. When I wasn't out there the team didn't play well and the other teams would score. He preached to me that I have to be in great shape. He told me I to take the responsibility of taking over the defense, to become the leader. That was hard for me to accept because I wasn't a senior. I'm still not a senior. I woke up the next morning and decided then that I would become that guy. I just decided I had to do my job and be the team leader. I love that role. I want to win no matter what."

Even now Foster admits he still has so much to improve upon. He studied his game hard this offseason and he worked at it every day. Foster has seen better results and knows he's a better player than this time last season.

"My tackling has improved as much as anything," said Foster, who's averaging double-digit tackles per game and recorded four sacks on four games. "I more physical, bigger, and stronger. I am taking better angles. But the most important thing is I just have a better understanding of the game."

That wasn't the only big event in Foster's offseason. After nearly committing to both Georgia and Auburn while on visits to those schools, he ended up committing to Alabama. Despite his signing day being over 17 months away, Foster said he was ready to make the choice. Still, he's keeping his options open, kind of. He has been to Auburn twice for games already this season and plans to be at Florida this weekend when the Gators host the Crimson Tide.

"I am still committed to Alabama," Foster said. "And at the end of the day that's where I want to be. But I am keeping the door a little open because you never know if someone will give me a better a chance. I do like two or three other SEC schools like Auburn, Georgia and Florida. I would like to see Texas and Michigan State. I am also interested in seeing USC. I would really like to go out there."

Another team he would like to pay a visit to this fall and soak in their college atmosphere is Notre Dame. .

"They are a new team to me," Foster said. "I have never thought it would be possible that a school like that would recruit me. I was shocked that they came all this way to come see me. I thought only the close schools would recruit me but Notre Dame came by the school this spring and I talk to them time to time."

The Irish aren't the only ones coming hard after Foster. The home state Bulldogs and nearby Tigers are tugging hard at him. And don't forget Florida lurking in the background. Despite his decision to say yes to Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide, Foster is having a hard time saying no to the others.

"I continue to develop a great relationship with those coaches at Alabama," Foster said. "I love Alabama. I have the heart and desire to go there. So I decided to commit there. It was super hard and I came close to doing that to some other schools. I am still a junior and I don't want to get bored with it. Schools are telling me that you can never know what will happen and they are not giving up.

"I love being around the coaches at Georgia and talking football with them. I like their defense and often go on YouTube and watch their film. I have family that lives in Auburn and (my cousin) goes to school and plays there. They like it up there and I like what they have to say. I trust my family."

So read into that anything you want. The Class of 2013's signing day is a long way away, but there is a team to beat in Alabama. What happens next, well, about the only thing that seems certain is Foster will continue to make plays on the field and have more and more coaches coming after him off it.

"He recognizes that it's non-binding," said Flowers, speaking of Foster's decision to commit to the Tide. "He's just taking it day by day and doing a good job with it. Reuben has handled it all well."

Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at jamienewbergbw@yahoo.com.