TUSCALOOSA — Looking to avoid the pitfalls that plagued the Alabama football team in 2013, the Tide’s leadership council had a meeting of the minds earlier this offseason.
Senior tight end Brian Vogler said the theme of the gathering centered on what the Crimson Tide could do to improve. The players concluded they needed to build better relationships within the team.
“That’s one of the the things we wanted to improve on was connections,” Vogler said. “So we’re hanging out with guys we don’t normally hang out with, getting to know them so it makes the chemistry in the locker room a little bit better.”
Vogler said he didn’t feel it was a problem last season, but said building relationships is a point of emphasis in 2014.
Defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson said he noticed a bit of a rift toward the end of the year.
“I think at the end of the last season people were more individuals,” Tomlinson said. “We came together more as a family this year. We don’t worry about us individually, but work more as a team to help each other out. So we bond more.”
Now, Tomlinson said the players are hanging out more away from the field. They play video games such as NFL Madden, FIFA and UFC and also go out to eat — two things Tomlinson said everyone enjoys.
Vogler has noticed there’s no longer an “awkward tension” when the players see each other out. It’s all high-fives, handshakes and love.
Vogler added that the team’s new found connections have helped bridge the gap between the veterans and the younger players.
“We all got together and we had a big cookout before the season with a bunch of younger guys so we could get to know them,” Vogler said.
Seeing the team “bond more” has Tide coach Nick Saban praising the team’s chemistry. It started during spring practice and continued into the summer. Three weeks into preseason practice, Saban is still pleased.
“I would say the biggest takeaway that I get from this team is, I think that this team really and truly likes each other,” Saban said. “I think this team is much more bought into doing the things that they need to do to be successful. There’s not a lot of complaining. I don’t see a lot of negativity. I don’t see a lot of negative people, and I think that’s always a good sign.”
While the chemistry has improved, Saban said there is still work to be done on the field.
“Do we have better players, do we have better players at all the positions?” he asked. “I think that’s something that you kind of see as you play, and you compete and see how guys play in games. Do we have the right kind of chemistry to overcome adversity, to be the kind of relentless competitors that you need to be to sustain the season in our conference.
“All those things remain to be seen, but that’s the things that I’m most encouraged about is the way they go about their work and what they try and do.”
Sports Writer Marq Burnett: On Twitter @Marq_Burnett.