"I've been working my hardest every day, and I'm becoming a better practice player," Justin Britt said. "That's something I knew I needed to work on from last year and I worked on it this off-season by getting in better shape and conditioning a lot better. I brought it every day. I tried my best every day and left it all out on the field."
Britt gets the starting nod Saturday, in part at least, because last year's starter Jeremy Clark missed some practice time early in the fall with an injury. But the other part of Britt's starting honors is a combination of his work ethic, experience and a mean streak we can thank his two older brothers for.
Playing as a freshman Britt was always in the right spot. He graded out highly on each week's film review session, but only recorded 12 tackles in 214 snaps.
"Last year I was learning the defense," he said. "I was learning my assignments and I didn't want to make any mistakes. I was staying in my gap."
"This year I'm completely confident with all my assignments and I'm working more on reading the offensive line and making plays off them. This year I'm preparing myself to make more plays."
Alabama defensive coordinator Joe Kines noticed the change in Britt's confidence immediately when fall camp began.
"You come in straight off the street as a freshman, not being redshirted, throw you out there and play right of the get-go sometimes it can be overwhelming," Kines said. "Justin did a nice job playing as a freshman. Some guys can handle that and some guys can't. It probably has more to do with emotional stability than it does athletic ability."
Said Britt, "I got a lot of help from my brothers last year but you can't say in words what you need to do to prepare yourself for college football. That happens with every freshman – thinking you can take days off at practice mentally, but now I know physically and mentally I have to bring it and I can't take any days off."
Britt sports a mean streak as well as any player on the Crimson Tide team, something that can come in handy at times – in football and when trying to fend off two older and bigger football-playing brothers.
"I need it, for sure. I use it for good," he said. "I take the mean streak that I have in me and focus it on the opponent. It can be a good thing, but it can be a bad thing, I guess. I can handle it."
"That's where it all came from, getting pinned down by both my brothers, spitting on me and doing all that kind of stuff, that's where it came from, no doubt."
Britt will start on Saturday, but there's no chance of him getting complacent with Jeremy Clark nipping at his heals to get equal time. In reality, the defensive tackle position is one where it is least significant who starts because so much rotation is needed for the big inside defensive linemen.
"We're going to be pushing each other every single day," Britt said of himself and Clark. "Maybe I didn't get to push him that much last year for that job, but this year we're going to be competing every single practice. If you have a bad practice you could lose a starting job. We're both aware of that and it's going to be great for both of us."