Sometimes it comes down to the largest players doing the smallest things.
That’s the way Raekwon Davis sees things from his 6-foot-7 perspective. The senior defense end for the University of Alabama had a strong sophomore season in 2017, so much so that it was Davis, not the relatively unsung Quinnen Williams, that made it onto most of the early NFL mock drafts prior to the 2018 season.
As the season progressed, though, it was Williams who became the star. Davis didn’t fall into a crater. His season statistics — 55 tackles, 1.5 sacks — came while he still drew double teams from many offensive lines. But it fell short of the standard Davis had established for himself.
“I want to get back to my old self, my sophomore year self,” Davis said on Tuesday in a UA media availability. “Last year, there was some stuff I didn’t do. Little things, but little things matter. I wasn’t me last year. So it’s about proving to the team this year that I can do it. Physically, it was little things but I wasn’t doing my job. I thought the way (the defense) played at the end, that had a lot to do with me and the things I was doing wrong.”
One area of improvement is visible even though the Crimson Tide hasn’t started working in full pads yet. At a lean, muscular 312 pounds, Davis has caught the eye of nearly every practice observer.
However, he says that how he acts in the huddle and the locker room, not how he looks at a photo shoot, is what’s important.
“I’m taking a leadership role, not just talking but really deep down, pushing my team, especially some of the older guys,” he said. “It’s not just about calling out the young guys. It’s about taking coaching too.”
Davis did laugh about being the elder statesman (and a relatively rare fourth-year senior) in defensive line meetings.
“I look old,” he said. “I know I do. Sometimes I feel old, but the young players think I’m young so I’ve got to keep myself going.”
Alabama defensive coordinator Pete Golding indicated at Fan Day last Saturday that the more motivation the young players around Davis had, the better it would be for the defense.
“We’re going to try and play as many guys up front as we can play winning football with,” Golding said. “Whatever that number ends up being, we’re not going to know, obviously, until we show up at Duke. But I think our job as coaches is to try and develop that every day. We’re developing the bottom half of our roster (so) you can rotate guys to obviously try to be able to sustain into the fourth quarter with your best players.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cecilhurt