By Ben Jones and Drew Hill
Linebacker Keith Holcombe will not participate in Alabama’s spring practice this season, coach Nick Saban said on Tuesday. Holcombe was not seen with the inside linebackers during the open period of Alabama’s first spring practice on Tuesday.
Holcombe will remain with the Alabama baseball team as it continues its season during spring practice.
“Keith wanted to give baseball his best shot,” Saban said. “Keith would be a fifth-year senior. He’s been through four spring practices here already. I made him a promise when we recruited him that he could play baseball. He’s always tried to do both. We met after this season and I said, ‘Look, you’ve been through plenty of spring practices. Why don’t you just play baseball and do the best you can in baseball. When baseball season is over, you and I can decide whether you want to come back for your fifth year or not.'”
That’s a departure from Holcombe’s workload in the last two springs. Holcombe split his time between football and baseball during the 2016 baseball season. He began the 2017 season with the baseball team but did not play after spring practice began. He had shoulder surgery at the end of spring practice that prevented him from finishing the baseball season.
Holcombe has had a bigger role with the baseball team this season as the Crimson Tide’s regular starter in left field. He’s started 17 of Alabama’s 21 games and is second on the team with a .361 batting average. He has 13 RBIs, two stolen bases and briefly led the nation in batting average.
Holcombe would be entering his redshirt senior season with the football team this fall. He is a junior with the baseball team and eligible to be chosen in this summer’s MLB draft.
Holcombe started three games at inside linebacker as a junior after injuries forced him into a bigger role during the 2017 season. He finished with a career-high 38 tackles, including two tackles for loss and a sack. He also had three passes defended and one fumble recovered. Alabama is replacing both starters at inside linebacker this spring following the graduation of Shaun Dion Hamilton and Rashaan Evans.
Holcombe was one of Alabama’s top special teams players, earning special teams player of the week honors five times from the Alabama coaching staff.
“He’s totally focusing on baseball, which I’m good with,” Saban said. “We’d love to have him come back in the fall, but I hope he chooses to do that.”
Holcombe started in left field and batted fifth in Alabama’s game against UAB at Regions Field on Tuesday night in Birmingham, the same day the Crimson Tide began spring football practice in Tuscaloosa.
Nick Saban on Keith Holcombe missing spring practice to focus on baseball. pic.twitter.com/OJvkXsTDa4
— Drew Hill (@DrewHillSports) March 20, 2018