HOOVER — Nick Saban wants Alabama to re-establish its standard.
The six-time national championship coach is coming off a season in which the Crimson Tide won 14 games, claimed the Southeastern Conference title and appeared primed to win their third national title in four years.
That didn’t happen as Alabama suffered one of the most embarrassing defeats of Saban’s tenure — a 44-16 loss to Clemson. Thus, the need to re-establish Alabama as a dominant program.
“I think the most important thing for us, you know, in this offseason and going into this season is sort of re-establish the standard that we’d like to play to, standard of discipline, also, players that are going to be responsible and accountable to do their job at a high level on a consistent basis and also put the team first,” Saban said Wednesday at SEC Media Days.
That lopsided defeat at the hands of Clemson is also serving as motivation for Saban, and his coaching staff, to have his players learn about the how and why the Tide were embarrassed on the national stage.
“I think if you’re a great competitor and you are in a game like we were for the national championship and you didn’t perform very well, and given all much the credit to the other team who beat us and took advantage of the opportunities that they have, not to take anything away from them,” Saban said. “But if you’re a competitor, you’re going to respond in a positive way and learn from the things that you didn’t do, whether those things were in preparation, game-day decisions, you know, the habits that you created leading up to the game the second half of the season.”
Saban added, “All of those things contribute to, are we going to be able to have success against one of the best teams, or the best team, in the country. And we obviously didn’t do that. That’s my responsibility.”
Saban also made it a point that his team, filled with future NFL players, may have possibly not been as focused as needed.
“And you know, whether or not people were worried about personal outcomes more than team outcomes, it’s always hard to judge that,” Saban said. “But it seems like we had a lot of distractions at the end of the year. So hopefully we learned from those scenarios, and it will help us do the things that we need to do to be able to play to our full potential throughout this season.”
With a full season as a starter under his belt, Saban also expects the Tide’s superstar quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to develop even more so this upcoming season.
The Heisman Memorial Trophy finalist threw for 3,966 yards, 43 touchdowns to only six interceptions while completing 68.1 percent of his passes. In two of the final three games, Tagovailoa though struggled as he went 10-of-25 for 164 yards and two interceptions in the SEC Championship Game (before being injured), and then threw two more interceptions in the national championship game.
“Well, I think Tua is the kind of guy that’s never really satisfied,” Saban said. “And I think he had an outstanding year last year. Are there things that he can improve on? I don’t think there’s any question about that.”
Saban added, “You know, towards end of the season, we turned the ball over a little bit more offensively than what we had in the first half of the season. And I’m sure that he wants to make sure that the decision making that led to some of those things are something that he can improve on.”
In particular, Saban would like to see his star signal caller make smarter decisions with the football.
“Tua is a great competitor so he’s going to try to make a great play every play,” Saban said. “And sometimes those things have worked out extremely well. And other times they’ve led to some disasters. So having a little better judgment about when to say when can be an asset from an health standpoint as well as eliminate negative play standpoint, even though sometimes he’s done that, and it’s worked out great.”