The 2018 Alabama football quest for leaders

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01: Damien Harris
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01: Damien Harris /

Identifying and grooming new leaders is an annual offseason effort for Alabama football. Without players providing team leadership there are no championships.

Alabama football does an excellent job of identifying and developing players as team leaders. It is an ongoing process but it gets extra attention in the interval between spring and fall camp. There is an argument that only teammates can choose their leaders. It is not a role that can be assigned in top-down fashion by the coaching staff.

The other consideration is natural-born leaders are few in number. Many potential leaders are unable to assume the role until they learn leadership skills. Following the thinking that nurture is as important as nature, Scott Cochran traveled to IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL. Making the trip with Cochran was the player leadership group for 2018.

Player Leadership Council

Nick Saban has long assigned many player discipline issues to a select player group. Those players, almost always third-year players and older, bring cohesion to team decisions. They have two quite different tasks given that they are expected to lead on and off the field.

Hence the need for some specialized leadership training. IMG must be good at that training because Cochran took 14 players with him to Florida. Making the trip were Quinnen Williams, Miller Forristall, Christian Miller, Isaiah Buggs, Shyheim Carter, Hale Hentges, Jalen Hurts, Ross Pierschbacher, Raekwon Davis, Mack Wilson, Terrell Lewis, Deionte Thompson, Damien Harris and Anfernee Jennings. Buggs is not a third-year Crimson Tide player but the former JUCO player is a senior.

Make no mistake, these young men are carefully chosen. The coaches already know they have leadership traits. In fact, the ability of each player to exhibit and influence high character has been monitored going back to their high school careers.

Nick Saban is particularly concerned that on-field leaders step up on the defensive side of the ball. Saban said at the start of spring practice,

"I think we have a work in progress … to find some leadership and find some people who have an alpha-dog personality and are great competitors who hate to lose and are willing to go out there and do things at a (high) level  – which is not easy to do"

What is an alpha-dog leader?

The common image of the ‘alpha-dog’ leader is one who imposes will with a ferocious intensity. No doubt, football is not a game for the timid. It is also a battle of physical and mental domination. But Nick Saban knows there is something more to being a leader. As Saban has aged and to a degree mellowed, he often talks about players caring about each other. He knows leadership must be built on trust and respect.

Trust and respect begin with each player being accountable to himself and expands into accountability to and for each other. Nick Saban understands that accountability is the cornerstone of a successful life … and a necessary ingredient in building a championship team.

Next: 'Bama Cuts' gives special insight into Saban-Tide Process

When was the last season an Alabama football did not have a requisite number of player leaders? Nick Saban might agree the 2007 team was short on leadership. Sometimes the requisite number is a fine line. Plenty was on hand for 2009, 2011 and 2012 but somehow not quite enough for 2010.