Ragland Likes Tide Youth And Leadership

HOOVER – Should he stay, or should he go, as in pro? In the weeks between Alabama’s 2014 SEC championship game win over Missouri and its ill-fated trip to New Orleans, Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland had a decision to make. His NFL Draft Assessment came back showing him as a second round pick.

“I got some good feedback, but I knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to stay and get better, and to improve on some things that I know I need to improve on, before I make that next step in my life, and try to play in the National Football League,” Ragland said Wednesday at SEC Media Days.

That said, he thinks the timing of the feedback should change, so as not to interfere with bowl and playoff preparation. “I think it should be pushed back,” Ragland said, “because that would give people more time to make the right decision for their life. If you can’t make the right decision for your life, or you’ve got to rush it, you could make a bad decision.

“I didn’t feel any pressure; I just wanted to play football at the time (he found out). I just wanted to make sure that I had a shot to win a national championship with my teammates.”

That said, Ragland admitted that there was something to Nick Saban’s earlier remarks about something affecting team chemistry between the Missouri win and the Ohio State loss. “I say guys got to getting ready for the NFL, and probably got distracted by people in their ears,” he said. “For me, I wasn’t worried about answering the phone, I was just worried about playing football, but a lot of guys got sidetracked by that.

“I think this year coming up, we’ve got a lot of guys that are not worried about the next level, but are just worrying about right now and what’s in front of them, and that’s playing football.”

Of the loss to the Buckeyes, Ragland says he and his teammates haven’t forgotten the feeling, and plan to build on it positively. “I think about it. It was a heartbreaker. We didn’t finish the right way we were supposed to. I think that would motivate anybody. Every year, we’re trying to win a national championship, and there’s’ always pressure on us. We’ve just got to do the necessary things we’ve got to do, and make sure everybody’s together, not stray away, and make sure everybody finishes. That’s all we preach about, in all the meetings, with all the seniors and guys not even on the Leadership Council, everybody’s talking, and we’re more together. You can sense it in the locker room with the guys.”

Ragland was asked who among the team’s newcomers has stood out to him this summer during the team’s annual seven-on-seven off-season workouts. Unlike teammate Kenyan Drake, who declined to name names, Ragland was quick to respond. “(Defensive backs) Minkah Fitzpatrick, Kendall Sheffield and Ronnie Harrison. Ronnie Harrison is a ball-hawk, and the rest of those guys, they’re been overall well-coached. Our DB’s are going to be very talented. “(Offensively), (halfback) Damien Harris and (receiver) Calvin Ridley. The first day Calvin got out there, he made a diving, one-handed catch, so I think Calvin will have a great shot this year to get some playing time.”

Ragland said he doesn’t mind that pressure that comes with suiting up for the Crimson Tide. In fact, he embraces it. “We’re not allowed to have a bad season,” he said, “because the fans will let you know when you’re playing badly. We have to have the right mindset at all times, because the players that came before us instilled something that we have to keep finishing, and keep going on. We’ve had Don’t’a Hightower, Rolando McClain and Javier Arenas. Those guys paved the way for how we are in the weight room and the locker room.”

Alabama’s 2015 schedule is once again among the nation’s toughest, and it starts in the division. Ragland said, “Every game in the SEC West is tough. Everyone can beat everyone. We have to go in each week with the right mindset, week in and week out, because we can be beat. We have to be mentally tough.

“The SEC East is very tough, as well. Tennessee (in the East) picked up my ‘brother,’ (running back) Alvin Kamara. That was a good pickup by them. He will do good things for Tennessee.”

Ragland says he can sense that teams no longer fear playing Alabama, something that’s changed since the Tide last claimed a national title in 2012. “Guys aren’t scared to play us anymore. That’s simple, and that’s a fact,” he said. “Guys come in and are very happy and excited to play us. I used to see teams break down in the first half most weeks, and we’ve got to get that back. When you win so much, sometimes guys start to lose focus on the prize, but I think the leadership we have this year, with guys talking more about finishing and having respect for the opponent, (will help). You’ve got to have respect for anybody you play, because anybody can get hit in the mouth at any time.”

“I think we’ve got the front seven to do it, and the secondary, but we’ve just got to take one game at a time, and that starts in fall camp, with Coach Saban out there and the 100-degree heat. Ragland says he’s just fine about the new Cost of Attendance stipend that starts this year. He knows how he’s going to use his: “To pay bills, to make sure my rent is paid every month, and to make sure I have food in my mouth. All my teammates love to eat, and they’re always over at my house eating, so I’ve got to make sure I’ve got food in the house. Me, I love to eat. I love ‘drummies.’ That’s like crack to me. I’ve got to get away from that stuff.

“Also, if there’s some left over, I can send it home to my parents. My mom works all the time (at a Huntsville sports bar), and my dad has had some health issues, so I’ve got to make sure my family’s got some help.”


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