Nick Saban has liked what he’s seen from his defense so far this season, and he believes linebacker Deontae Lawson has been a big part of the defensive success.

Just a sophomore, Saban believes Lawson has already emerged as a leader on defense and has made the defense better when he’s in the game.

“He’s played really really well. We really miss him when he’s not out there, when he missed the game,” Saban said in his press conference Monday. “His leadership is great. I think he helps everybody else play better with his communication, signal calling and his performance has been really good. He’s a very contentious guy that is a good athlete and has the ability to make plays, but he’s put himself in the right place to do it because he’s contentious as a player.”

So far this season, Lawson has logged 12 tackles and 2 sacks. He had a career-high 10 tackles against USF a few weeks ago and had a big game on Saturday against Texas A&M.

Saban will look to continue relying on Lawson’s strong play and leadership abilities as the season goes on. The Tide will take on Arkansas this weekend before a big game against rival Tennessee 2 weeks from now.