The Raiders selected Alabama inside linebacker Rolando McClain with the eighth overall choice in the 2010 NFL draft in New York on April 22.
McClain, the 2009 Butkus and Lambert award winner as the top college linebacker, played a key role in the Crimson Tide winning last season's national championship. He finished his three-year Alabama career with 29.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks and five interceptions.
"The guy made plays," Raiders coach Tom Cable told reporters after McClain's selection by Oakland. "He made plays against the run, he made plays against the pass, he could cover."
The 6-foot-3, 254-pound McClain, left, is only the third linebacker drafted by the Raiders in the first round since 1967. The others were Rob Fredrickson (1994, 22nd overall) and Napoleon Harris (2002, 23rd).
In his final college season, McClain contributed 105 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and four sacks as a junior. The Decatur, Alabama native was a consensus All-American.
“I’m accustomed to winning,” McClain told Bay Area reporters in a telephone conference call April 22. “I know these guys are just ready to get back to winning the way we used to win. I know the Raiders haven’t had a great season the past few years. But hey, everything is made to turn around.
"Everything happens for a reason. Coach Cable as well as myself and a lot of these other guys are going to turn this program around, and we’re going to get back to winning, get back to the playoffs, get back to having fun and playing good football.”
The hard-hitting McClain knows a little something about turnarounds. Alabama ranked 46th in the nation in run defense before he arrived in Tuscaloosa before improving to 28th his freshman year and second in his final two seasons.
With size and great instincts, McClain is exected to help elevate Oakland's porous rush defense. The Raiders reportedly have allowed an NFL-worst 143.7 yards rushing per game the past seven seasons and 146 rushing touchdowns — 15 more than the second-worst team, the St. Louis Rams. Oakland finished 29th in run defense last season, allowing 155.5 yards per game.
"With this guy, probably one of his really unique qualities is the football IQ and his leadership," Cable said. "The ability to get others around him to come and enjoy studying the game like he does. He’s a guy that controlled the entire defense, made the call, adjusted, never came off the field. … You put a champion in the organization. I think that’s the important thing.”