Nick Saban looks at his offense and is pleased — for the most part.

A hard-driving taskmaster, Saban always wants improvement. But when he gazes at his offense, he sees a level of competitiveness that he recognizes. He can’t say the same for the defense, and it concerns him.

In other words, he’s searching for some dogs, at least that’s what previous Alabama defenses would call it.

“(The offense) I feel much better about right now in terms of the intangibles that we play with,” Saban said. “I think we have a work in progress on the other side to find some leadership and find some people who have an alpha-dog personality and are great competitors who hate to lose and are willing to go out there and do things at (a high) level, which is not easy to do, that they need to be able to do them so that we may have success on defense, especially with the inexperience that we have.”

Coaches would rather leadership emerge organically rather than to force a role, and that’s exactly what Saban is waiting to happen. Minkah Fitzpatrick is gone. Da’Ron Payne is gone. He’s looking for their replacements, not so much in talent, though we would certainly take that, too, but in the way they competed.

It’s likely heightened to a degree because he has an offense full of players who are competing in a way he respects. He highlighted that in senior running back Damien Harris. In fact, he went so far as to say he saw that in several position groups, including running backs, wide receivers and the offensive line. Now he wants to see it in the defensive line, linebackers and secondary.

Alabama certainly has candidates to fill those roles on defense including Anfernee Jennings and Terrell Lewis, but he’s not seeing it right now.

“We’re kind of looking for the people on this team that have got the conviction and commitment to sort of the principles and values that we’ve established around here in terms of the toughness that we want to play to, the effort that we want to give, the discipline to execute that we need to have,” Saban said. “I think we’ve got a little more knowledge and experience and leadership on offense.

“I think we’re making progress defensively. We’re looking for players who can play to this standard. And we’re talking about intangibles here now, we’re not talking about ability. We’re talking about guys that will give effort, play with toughness, finish plays. Mental and physical toughness when things get difficult. And have the discipline to go out there and execute and do their job and be responsible enough to know what they’re supposed to do, how they’re supposed to do it and why it’s important to do it that way. And if they don’t know, come and see the coach so we’ve got a chance to teach them.”

Reach Aaron Suttles at or at 205-722-0229.