SEC Media Days: Nick Saban's message to players: Take ownership
HOOVER, Ala. — Alabama went 14-1 last season, but judging from the reaction across the college football landscape this offseason, it’s understandable if you thought Nick Saban’s juggernaut from Tuscaloosa was on its last leg.
Based on the message Saban shared during his Wednesday appearance at SEC Media Days, that’s exactly the disrespect he wants his players to feel as they continue to work hard for another journey up the college football mountain top.
All offseason, Saban has harped on last year’s undoing: The Tide did not do the little things necessary to continue to progress in-season. He pointing toward the team’s difficult 3-game stretch to end the season as proof. He continued with that narrative in Hoover.
“We didn’t do the things that we feel are very important to the program very well toward the end of the season last year,” Saban said at 2019 SEC Media Days. “I don’t think we played with the kind of discipline that we want to play with as an organization and as a team.
“We didn’t have a culture of accountability with our team at the end of the season. I think putting the team first is always really really important and these are the kinds of things we need to improve on if we are going to improve as a team and continue to develop and have success.”
While the Crimson Tide were dominant during the first half of the 2018 season, the little things were overlooked late in the year. Signs of trouble were there, but most missed them — even the players and coaches.
If not for the heroics of Jalen Hurts, no chance Alabama wins the 2018 SEC Championship Game against Georgia. The Tide then held on to beat Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl National Semifinals only after jumping out to a big lead before advancing to face Clemson. We all know what happened the following contest against Clemson — the worst loss of the Saban era in Tuscaloosa.
To correct the issues, Saban’s latest offseason message has been relayed loud and clear to his players — they need to step up, take control and lead. That’s what the outstanding Alabama teams of year’s past have done and that’s what Tua Tagovailoa says he and his teammates have worked on this summer.
“For a lot of us on the team, we knew that a lot of the teams that were successful in the past had guys that took on leadership roles — and took ownership of the team,” Tagovailoa said Wednesday. “Those are the successful years Alabama had under coach Nick Saban, so we understand that we have to do the same if we want to be successful this upcoming season.”
All signs pointed toward another national championship run last season, but instead of earning the program’s latest ring, Alabama was forced to look itself in the mirror following the worst loss of the Saban era.
To prevent a repeat of that ending, Saban has challenged his team to refocus their efforts this offseason.
“You have to be able to live with success,” Saban said. “You have to understand that success is not a continuum. It is temporary and if you don’t continue to do the same things that you’ve always done, you are not going to be successful.
“I think sometimes players get complacent, take for granted that just because we played well in the past, we are going to continue to play well in the future and then you create bad habits in the way you prepare then you get exposed when you play against someone that’s really, really good.”