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Alabama leans on team's leaders

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Regardless of how the rest of the season plays out for Alabama, one thing is for sure -- leadership hasn't been a problem in the eyes of Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban.

In fact, leadership and team chemistry are a big part of why this Alabama team has had success to this point.

From Saban to the players who come up for interviews, they all say the team enjoys playing for each other more than anything. And it all starts with the Tide's seniors, who only have two more opportunities to play in front of the home fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

"We've had a very good group of seniors this year and have a very good leadership group," Saban said. "I think the best thing about this team, the best thing about our seniors, is they're all really well-liked by their teammates, and that really starts with the fact that they care, and they care about other people on the team and are willing to spend time to help the other people on the team -- which is really, other than setting a good example, is one of the most important parts about leadership, and I think that's made the team chemistry on this team really good."

Nearly every position on the team has a senior who has emerged as a leader at some point this season. Blake Sims has become more of a vocal leader for the entire offense and the team. At wide receiver, there's DeAndrew White and Christion Jones. Austin Shepherd and Arie Kouandjio help the offensive line along. Defensively, linebackers Trey DePriest and Xzavier Dickson along with safety Nick Perry help lead their position groups.

"Some of the guys who are doing a really, really good job of that, without me mentioning any names, are actually guys who struggled maybe early on being able to do those types of things," Saban said. "When it was their turn to take a leadership role, regardless of what their role was on the team, they really did it in a first-class way. That's been very helpful to the team chemistry."

The players have noticed as well. Compared to last season, the talk surrounding the leadership is overwhelmingly positive.

"This year everybody is so tight. It's a well-knit group," Tide cornerback Cyrus Jones said. "There's no clicks on the team. Everybody has everybody's backs. Once you have that cohesiveness, especially with the leaders, it trickles down to everyone else. I think this team is on the right track."

Like Saban said, some players have even stepped out

side of themselves and provided leadership wherever needed.

"A guy who's been more vocal is Jalston Fowler," Christion Jones said. "More vocal on offense, which is something we needed at tight end and fullback. He's a good leader for those groups and everyone hears him out before a game. Blake Sims has also done a great job. DeAndrew White on the offensive side has done a great job of communicating and getting guys going."

Jones likened the chemistry on this team to the Tide's chemistry in 2011, his freshman season. Jones said the younger players respond to the leadership group this season the same way they did in that championship season.

"Everybody is comfortable with each other from the seniors to the freshmen," Christion Jones said.

"Everybody has a good vibe. We haven't had any problems on the team amongst each other or any outcasts. Everyone gets along with each other."

-- Contact Anniston Star Sports Writer Marq Burnett at mburnett@annistonstar.com.

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