Few guys have been with the Crimson Tide longer than the redshirt junior linebacker, but watching the freshmen come to him for advice still caught Keith Holcombe by surprise.
“It’s kind of crazy, like the new guys coming in asking me questions, because I remember when I was doing the same thing a couple years ago when I was in their role,” Holcombe said.
To date, the former four-star prospect from Hillcrest High School has primarily contributed on special teams (where he led the team with 12 tackles in 2016), but now Holcombe finds himself taking the first reps in spring practice alongside fellow inside linebacker Rashaan Evans.
One of the hardest lessons for newcomers on the team to learn every year is patience. Everyone wants to see the field on Saturdays, but Holcombe said the guys that take on more than coaches ask of them actually set themselves back.
“Being the guy everybody looked to make that one play (in high school) – yeah you might have to reel yourself in every now and again,” Holcombe said. “But once you understand your role and what you’re doing, how to play here together with everybody, that you can lean on each other, it goes a lot smoother.”
Instead of looking for big play opportunities, younger guys should sweat the small stuff. Center Bradley Bozeman said it all starts (for the offensive line at least) before the ball is even snapped.
“First off it’s knowing your play, and then after that, it’s knowing what the defense is about to do so you can correct your technique before it even starts,” Bozeman said.
The redshirt senior said it took two or three years to figure it out. Once he did, he was able to lock down a starting position and finish the season as one of the most consistent blockers for Alabama in 2016 despite little playing time in prior seasons.
It’s a situation Holcombe can certainly understand after only recording 15 tackles for the Crimson Tide’s defense in the last two years.
“We understood what we signed up for and just that wait and understanding how everything’s going to work out for us, it just made us better and more hungry,” Holcombe said.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts didn’t have to wait to see the field, but that doesn’t mean his teammates expect his jump in performance to be less signifigant than guys like Holcombe and Bozeman.
Wide receiver Calvin Ridley said the difference is night and day.
“When the pocket breaks down, he just steps into it and makes a good throw,” Ridley said. “And sometimes he used to, when the pocket breaks down, he would take off.”