On the beat: Alabama’s big draft class means small leadership group for 2018

Alabama football-Crimson Tide football-Damien Harris

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. —There’s no Bradley Bozeman, Rashaan Evans, Minkah Fitzpatrick or Shaun Dion Hamilton.

That the University of Alabama football team doesn’t have a returning captain isn’t surprising, or new. It’s usually the case. Consequently, when it comes to the 2018 Crimson Tide a whole new group of leaders will have to emerge beginning in the spring.

This is the flip side to having so much success this past season and having 14 players invited to the upcoming NFL combine, which provides a decent-looking snapshot of how the former Alabama players might fare in the 2018 NFL Draft.

In addition to last season’s seniors, Alabama also had Fitzpatrick, defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne, Ridley, safety Ronnie Harrison and running back Bo Scarbrough depart early.

That leaves the following senior class:

  • QB: None
  • RB: Damien Harris and Ronnie Clark
  • WR: Derek Kief and Xavian Marks
  • TE: Hale Hentges
  • OL: Ross Pierschbacher, Lester Cotton, Joshua Casher Dallas Warmack and Elliot Baker
  • DL: Isaiah Buggs and Johnny Dwight
  • LB: Jamie Mosley, Keith Holcombe and Christian Miller
  • DB: None

Among them are just a handful of returning starters. They’re prime candidates to become not only team captains, but form the team’s leadership group.

Ideally, Saban likes to have a leader or two for each position group, or someone who everyone turns to when there are questions and or concerns. They don’t have to be a seniors, either. Fitzpatrick was the leader of the defensive backs last season. Payne filled that role for the defensive line and Ridley the wide receivers.

“These guys have had outstanding careers here,” Saban said when they announced their decisions to go pro. “Won two SEC championships and two national championships and all these guys have made tremendous contributions to the team, the team’s success and the internal sort of leadership that goes with having championship-type teams.”

With some position groups it’s pretty obvious who will be looked to this season. For example, on the offensive line it’ll be Jonah Williams, a junior, and Ross Pierschbacher. Moreover, leadership is one thing about junior quarterback Jalen Hurts that no one questions.

But at other positions it’s not, especially on the defensive side.

There’s no returning starters in the secondary. Who will emerge as the leader of the defensive line? Anfernee Jennings could be that guy among the outside linebackers, but is Mack Wilson ready for that kind of responsibility in the interior?

To give an idea of just how important Saban considers team leadership, consider his comments from the national championship parade:

“I really do think that this season and even the final game probably was a metaphor of life for us all to learn from,” Saban said. “The challenges that the season created, the challenges that the game created, getting behind in the game, coming back in the game, losing a game and having to come back from that.

“The people who stepped up with the opportunities that were created because of players missing and always stepping up at a high level and to receive the challenge that they had to perform to and be able to play to a level that we could still succeed. The collective leadership that these guys showed each other so that they supported each other regardless of the circumstance. They always stayed together, they always played together. And their ability to persevere, their ability to overcome adversity, the resolve that they had as a group.”

Continuing and building on that will be a huge factor in determining Alabama’s success this next season.

The post On the beat: Alabama’s big draft class means small leadership group for 2018 appeared first on SEC Country.

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