Without searching, who leads the Alabama Crimson Tide in sacks?

The answer is probably obvious, given the context of the article's headline. It's Phidarian Mathis. He has 2.5, which may not sound like a lot through five games, but his impact for the 2021 Crimson Tide defense shouldn't go unnoticed.

Mathis stepped into a leadership role for this year's team during the offseason and hasn't looked back. Whether it's the energy he brings or the momentum swings of his big plays, Mathis has paved the way for a defense that has seen massive improvements throughout the first half of the season.

Mathis understands what the process asks of him and it's showing up on the field. Staying true to his run fits, making critical tackles for loss and rushing the passer with consistency have all been his strong suits on the field. Off the field, it's been about energy.

"We need someone on the team to take on that role, and I don't mind doing it," Mathis said last Monday before the game against Ole Miss. "I enjoy doing it, because I know I don't have that much time left in here, so I'm trying to make as many memories as I can. Also just being a good leader and bringing that energy to the field so the guys can get rolling."

The Crimson Tide in 2021 is a relatively young team, though more so on the offense. That said, the vocal leadership of the defensive side has been a question mark since the season began. While the talent level of the defense was never in question, who would be the one stepping in to create the spirit the defense needs to stay at a high level for a full game remained.

"I've talked about that we have quite a few young guys on the team. We don't have a real senior-laden team," head coach Nick Saban said Monday.

Saban talked about how the young players on the team are generating confidence through success. Learning leadership is a difficult task, but it takes leaders stepping up in the first place to teach the next wave of players.

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"There's two parts of leadership," Saban said. "You've gotta have people who lead, but you gotta also have to have other people on the team who recognize leadership and follow along and take the example that they see and implement that into their play and believe that's gonna be beneficial to them to get what they want."

Mathis is a leader whose style and spirit are easy to recognize and follow.

"He's done a really good job," Saban said. "He's showing leadership, setting a good example... He's always been a guy who plays hard and tries to please the coach and do everything he can to help the team win. It's important to him, and those are the kind of guys you love to have on the team."

 

For any defense, consistently exceptional play from exceptional players is a must to find success. Mathis has played his part so far in the 2021 campaign.

Between everything Mathis brings to the program this year, his teammate in the trenches, Justin Eboigbe, probably put it best: “There’s too many adjectives to describe him."

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