Alabama Football: Nick Saban's First Order of Spring Business Is Finding Leaders

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterMarch 21, 2014

Alabama head coach Nick Saban
Alabama head coach Nick SabanGerald Herbert/Associated Press

The race for AJ McCarron's replacement at quarterback and the fight to fix the secondary will dominate headlines this offseason, but even though Alabama is only a week into practice, its first order of business is already well underway.

Finding leaders.

Head coach Nick Saban lashed out at "immature players" following the Crimson Tide's first practice in pads on Wednesday afternoon, according to Andrew Gribble of

I think that immature people and immature players sort of think that life's going to give into their demands. Mature people know that I have to give into life's demands. If you really want to advance in this world, you've got to kind of do what you need to do to be successful, and most of the time that gets defined by somebody else.

Immature people?

Alabama head coach Nick Saban
Alabama head coach Nick SabanGerald Herbert/Associated Press

That could be perceived as a bit harsh. One look at the Crimson Tide roster, and you can see that it's not.

Saban needs leaders, and now's the time to find them.

Whether you agree with him or think he was making excuses, McCarron himself gave a glimpse into what went wrong down the stretch shortly after the Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma, according to Gribble.

We had a lot of guys that don't buy in, some selfish guys. it's all about them. I feel like the three leaders we have on this team, me, C.J. (Mosley) and Kevin (Norwood) are probably the best examples of buying in to the system. The time we came in to us leaving now, us three we really bought in and you see all the success we had.

Sure, he might have been frustrated from the way the season—and his career—ended; but he and Saban are right. Alabama has to find players who are mature enough and capable enough to be leaders of a team which needs leadership in key positions.

Essentially, it is the same fight against complacency that Saban fights virtually every offseason, only without the help of veterans like McCarron and former linebacker C.J. Mosley.

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 26:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide prepares to enter the field with his team prior to facing the Tennessee Volunteers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 26, 2013 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

So who's going to step up?

Obviously whoever wins the quarterback job will be a leader by default, but Blake Sims, Alec Morris, Parker McLeod, Cooper Bateman and David Cornwell will all be fighting for first-team reps this spring; and the eventual front-runner will have Florida State transfer Jacob Coker to deal with during fall camp.

Future Alabama QB Jacob Coker
Future Alabama QB Jacob CokerStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

Their focus will be more on the playbook than taking a leadership role right now, and there's no way that battle will be settled until Coker has his shot.

On defense, it's a different story.

It seems like only yesterday that safety Landon Collins was committing to the Crimson Tide at the Under Armour All-American Game, but now the 6'0", 215-pound junior is the veteran of Alabama's depleted secondary. He's the one known commodity at the back end of that defense, and depending on how the pieces shake out, will be a starter at either free safety or strong safety.

Alabama LB Trey DePriest
Alabama LB Trey DePriestKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

That's not good enough for the defense. They need Mosley's replacement at middle linebacker—likely 6'2", 245-pound senior Trey DePriest—to take a stand.

Not only was Mosley a leader for the Tide during his decorated career, but he was the quarterback of the defense. The player who was responsible for getting everybody else lined up properly pre-snap, and one who earned the trust of the coaches to ensure everything went according to plan on the field.

Big shoes to fill, no doubt. And DePriest certainly has the experience in the middle of that linebacking corps to have a firm grasp of the scheme and the plan. 

It'll be a big spring in Tuscaloosa. The sustained winning, two national title in three years and beaming national spotlight created an atmosphere where complacency can easily creep in. To Saban's credit, it didn't in the midst of the title run. 

Now he has to find guys who can feed off back-to-back losses to close out the 2013 season and become the sequel to McCarron, Mosley and Norwood—who were big pieces to one of the most remarkable dynasty runs in modern college football history.

Not an easy thing to do.


* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report.