Veterans provide leadership for young players


CW/ Hannah Saad

Ben Stansell, Assistant Sports Editor

It was past midnight on a Saturday night, and Tua Tagovailoa was headed out. Not to the Strip to celebrate the completion of Alabama’s first spring scrimmage earlier that day, but to the Mal Moore Athletic Complex.

In tow was his younger brother and fellow Crimson Tide quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. An early enrollee, Taulia played in his first live action scrimmage for Alabama earlier that day. Now he was going with his older brother to break down the day’s film.

“I had the opportunity to bring my brother up here late at night, probably about 12:30 to 1, and just sat down with him in our offensive staff meeting room and just watched film with him,” Tua said. “He just wanted to know the things that I’m seeing out there and I got to help him with that.”

The moment was special for the siblings due to their familial ties, but the act of an older player mentoring a younger player is a common occurrence at Alabama. Especially during spring practices, it is one of the most critical times in a young player’s development.

Even though he’s only entering his junior season, Tua has experienced college football on the biggest stage. He’s faced some of the best teams in the country and has seen countless defensive schemes. Now he’s spreading the knowledge he gained from those experiences with the rest of the quarterback room, including Taulia and early enrollee Paul Tyson.

“Just with the guys in the quarterback room, things that I see as well, or maybe if they did this, [I give] my input on it,” Tua said about how he mentors the younger quarterbacks. “So just little things like that.”

While Tua is helping guide Alabama’s young quarterbacks, Dylan Moses is focused on bringing along the Crimson Tide’s budding inside linebackers.

Like Tua, Moses is entering his junior year, and he’s also played extensively, seeing action as a freshman and then starting every game last season. With linebacker Mack Wilson headed to the NFL, Moses has inherited his leadership role. It’s been a natural progression for Moses.

“There are a lot guys who watch me, look up to me, and they’re trying to see what I’m doing, like, in adversity situations when those come into play,” Moses said. “I take on the leadership role – the bull by the horns. I just do what I have to do.”

Defensive back Trevon Diggs can remember peppering former Crimson Tide safety Minkah Fitzpatrick with questions when he was new to the program and trying to learn the ropes. Now Diggs is the veteran being quizzed by the young players.

“I like how the younger guys asked me questions and stuff like that,” Diggs said. “They can follow me so it’s like when I was in their position, I was asking [Fitzpatrick] the questions, and he was trying to make me better.”

The leadership position may be new to Diggs, but it’s not to senior defensive back Shyheim Carter, who has played in 37 games during his Crimson Tide career.

“Shyheim, he’s done it the most, honestly,” Diggs said. “So I can go to him for something when I need help, and they can come to me or go to him. There’s a lot of leadership with our DBs.”

Defensive tackle Raekwon Davis had the opportunity to leave for the NFL draft after last season. Instead, the 6-foot-7, 309-pound wrecking ball decided to return for his senior year.

“That’s the whole reason I came back, to teach the younger guys and help the team as much as I can to the best of my ability,” Davis said.

He came back to help mentor players like DJ Dale, an early enrollee who has already earned reps with the first-team defensive line at nose tackle, despite having only been on campus for a few months. Davis recognizes the immense potential in Dale, comparing him to former Alabama standout and current Washington Redskin Da’Ron Payne.

“He plays like Da’Ron Payne,” Davis said. “He plays just like Da’Ron Payne.”

When Davis told Dale who he reminds him of, Dale laughed off the comparison, but then said he’d be better than Payne, who was named to the First Team All-SEC in 2017. If Dale is going to achieve that goal, he’ll need Davis’ leadership.

Fans will get a look at Dale and the rest of Alabama’s young players on Saturday in Alabama’s annual spring game in Bryant-Denny Stadium.