One year ago, the Alabama football team was favored to win the inaugural College Football Playoff. Stacked with future NFL draft picks, the No. 1 overall seed was expected to handle Ohio State in the semifinal on New Year’s Day in New Orleans.
Suffice to say, it didn’t.
Looking back, players and coach Nick Saban alike attributed the team’s early folding to an issue with locker room leadership. This season, they claim, that’s not a problem.
“Everybody on the team knew that leadership wasn’t the right way,” senior linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “But some guys can’t say nothing about it. But now I can say something because I’m a leader. And I feel like if I don’t like something, I’m going to say it. And if we need to do this, I’m going to say it. And the guys on the team know we got to do this the right way because the right way gets it done. The wrong way doesn’t.”
Some of that dramatic change has come since the start of the season. After a five-turnover loss to Ole Miss, a players-only meeting saw a stronger corps of leadership emerge, with a more business-like focus, according to several players. Since that loss, Alabama has outscored its opponents 334-117.
“Oh, it’s very different,” Ragland said. “Guys are more honed in on what’s going on. Guys are smarter. Guys have actually sat down and studied more and doing the things we got to do. And we’re more together as a whole. After the loss to Ole Miss, everybody was talking about it coming together and now everybody’s together.”
Saban is quick to point on that preparation is first and foremost, his responsibility.
“As a coach, you just like to see your team go out and play their best. And you do a good job with your coaches and your players getting them prepared to do that. And, you know, if you can do that, you feel good about it,” Saban said. “If you don’t do that, you don’t feel like you did a very good job. And, certainly, we’d like to do a better job this year than we did a year ago.”
Ragland graduated earlier this month, and will almost certainly join an NFL roster in 2016. He said he’s not worried about his draft grade, or March, or much of anything beyond a matchup against Michigan State on Friday.
“I know this is my last year,” Ragland said. “And I’m going to do the best I can to make sure if does happen. Because it’s my last year. I’m trying to go out the right way.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports