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Alabama junior tight end Jahleel Billingsley, who had three touchdowns last season and was looking to build on the momentum as an upperclassman, drew the scorn of head coach Nick Saban over the weekend.
Apparently Billingsley hasn’t held up his end of the bargain in terms of preseason preparation, and Saban took the opportunity Saturday to make an example of him for the entire team.
“Well, that’s up to him. That’s not up to me. He knows what he’s supposed to do at practices, he knows what he’s supposed to do,” Saban said when asked if Billingsley was moving up the depth chart. “This is not a democracy. Everybody doesn’t get to do what they want to do. Everybody doesn’t get to do what they feel like doing. You’ve got to buy in and do what you’re supposed to do to be a part of the team and do the things you need to do in practice every day — a sense of urgency, play fast, execute, do your job.”
Saban also made an interesting point that many fans may not consider: everything about playing at Alabama gets put under a microscope for NFL scouts.
“It’s a privilege for everybody to go out there and be able to create value for yourself,” Saban elaborated. “We have scouts at practice every day. Everybody thinks it’s just about playing in the game. It’s not just about playing in the game. [Scouts] watch practice film. They watch guys every day. You guys on ESPN, you evaluate what happens in the game. But they evaluate what happens every day, what you do every day.”
The Alabama program has transcended traditional football and now borders on Fortune 500 corporate culture, it seems. The way Saban speaks of his players sounds more like a CEO encouraging his team to be competitive in a marketplace than football players trying to win games.
“What are you doing every day to create any value for yourself?” Saban concluded. “You’ve got to create value for yourself so that your teammates and everybody gets confidence in you so that you have their confidence when you go out there and play. That’s up to every player on the team. I don’t make that decision for everybody on the team. I try to get them to do it. I try to point out the importance of them doing it. But it’s up to them to do it.”
Whatever Billingsley has done this offseason, or failed to do as it may be, has obviously drawn the ire of Saban. With so much talent constantly coming through the pipeline in Tuscaloosa annually, it’s clear that players are expected to carry themselves as professionals in many ways, or risk losing that all-important confidence from management.