TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It wasn’t too long ago that Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison had to be restrained on the sidelines after getting into an altercation with former teammate Eddie Jackson during the Crimson Tide’s season opener last year.
Plenty of things have changed over that span, the biggest being Harrison’s attitude.
Asked how he plans to approach being one of the leaders in Alabama’s secondary this season, Harrison paused and considered the question before a slight smile came to his face.
“I’m just excited, I guess you can say,” he said. “When I first came here, guys like Reggie Ragland, Eddie Jackson, they took me under their wings. Now it’s my turn to show the favor back to the freshmen.”
Entering his third season at Alabama, Harrison already considers himself a leader along with seniors Hootie Jones and Anthony Averett and fellow junior Minkah Fitzpatrick. Those four returners will provide a veteran nucleus to a unit which lost a team captain in Jackson as well as a potential first-round pick in Marlon Humphrey.
Despite having several veterans, the depth of the Tide’s secondary remains relatively young. This spring, Alabama has lined up with Averett and Fitzpatrick at cornerback, Jones and Harrison at safety and senior Tony Brown at Star. Outside of that bunch, the only upperclassman participating in the Tide’s first three groupings is former walk-on, Levi Wallace.
That’s why Harrison believes having a core group of leaders is so important.
“It helps a lot. We’re all in this together,” he said. “We have the chemistry and stuff like that. It helps to be out there with people you’ve played with before. It just helps the defense and we will probably be the strength of the defense this year so it helps to have that experience back there.”
As Harrison grows into his leadership role this spring, that surrounding cast of veterans should help him off the field as well. Widely viewed as the leader of Alabama’s defense coming into the season, Fitzpatrick said he’s more than willing to lend a hand to anyone in need.
“You know, even some of the older guys don’t know how to do it yet,” Fitzpatrick said. “Just going out there and showing them how it’s supposed to be done.”
So far, Harrison hasn’t needed that help. In fact, he’s wasted no time stepping into his newfound leadership position. When Alabama's campus was shut down due to severe weather on Wednesday, Harrison received a text message from one of the Tide's freshmen asking if practice was canceled. After chuckling to himself, he responded with a laughing emoji and explained the way things were done in the program.
"You kind of remind them that this is Alabama," Harrison said. "This why we’re so successful. We do stuff like this. We have practices even though school is canceled. Just reminding them what it takes to be great.”
That’s just one of several lessons Harrison looks to pass down this season.