TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — On Thursday evening, Alabama football coach Nick Saban took to the airwaves on the latest episode of Hey Coach!. Saban discussed his Crimson Tide for approximately 45 minutes and elaborated on several issues.
One of the recurring discussion points of the night was team leadership, which Saban has noted on multiple occasions this past week. Since Alabama football's 31-29 victory over Florida this past weekend, Saban has reiterated how crucial it is that his team learn to play a full 60 minutes and maintain intensity throughout the course of a game.
On Thursday evening, Saban noted that developing key concepts like maintaining intensity among his team starts with his team leadership. However, Saban also discussed how difficult of a process that is when he has so many young players on his team.
"I don't think people realize just how young our team really is," Saban said. "We even have a leadership group on our team where we have 10 players. Well, I met with the leadership group today and we only have two seniors in the whole leadership group. So we have a very young team and I think that your team sort of grows in stages of development.
"Sometimes when we get really young players they have trouble listening. They want to defend what they did rather than listening to what you have to say to try to correct them. But the only way that they can get the knowledge that they need to be able to play with any kind of consistency is to learn how to listen."
Saban noted once again later in the broadcast that his leadership team only has two seniors — a strikingly low number compared to normal years. He also mentioned that the team only has two fifth-year seniors, another low compared to a normal year.
When developing players, experience through both practice and games is crucial for development. However, when you have a young team, that challenge becomes more difficult than normal.
According to Saban, developing as a player starts with listening to coaches and instruction.
"When [players] get knowledge, they start to get understanding," Saban said. "When they start to understand what they're supposed to do, how they're supposed to do it, why it's important to do it that way, they start to develop wisdom of how you have to play and how you have to compete. And then that usually creates well-being. 'All of a sudden I'm playing well and doing things on a consistent basis because I was able to listen and learn and develop knowledge and understanding', and when you have a young team they're all at a little bit different stage of that development and it's harder for them to be consistent."
Alabama has started the season 3-0 with wins over Miami, Mercer and Florida. Next on the slate is Southern Miss, which brings a tough defense to Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday that has the potential to surprise the Crimson Tide should its offense be unsuspecting.
Saban said that one of the things that he hopes his team works on over the next several weeks is developing its leadership. He also believes that this weekend's game against the Golden Eagles provides a perfect opportunity for players to grow and gain knowledge.
"I think that's one of the things that we're really trying to work through with this team and when you have such a young team — you don't have all these older guys — [...] that internal sort of peer-pressure that guys can put on other players on the team sort of enhances this development," Saban said. "We need to continue to grow as a team. We need a lot of young guys to keep growing up and a lot of the older guys need to learn how to actively help them do that."
Hey Coach! airs weekly on Thursday nights at 6:30 p.m. CT and is broadcast live on all of Alabama Football's social media pages including YouTube.