Nick Saban makes no excuses for the way last year ended for Alabama — he’s been around long enough to know that excuses won’t do any good.
He also made no effort to apologize or take responsibility during Thursday’s SEC media day, but he did say that his team, which has won three of the last five national championships, needs to humble itself and get back to the basics that made Alabama so successful in the first place.
“I think you basically need to check your ego at the door, all of us in our organizations: players, coaches, everybody in our organization,” Saban said. “You know, really trust and believe in the things that have helped us be successful. Have enough humility to understand our role, what we need to do to help the team be successful, and certainly have the willingness as a family and a group to serve each other and help each other so that we have the best opportunity to accomplish this.”
For the first time since 2008, Alabama lost back-to-back games to end the season. It’s two losses were the most for the Tide since losing three in 2010. And they weren’t just any loses, they were loses to Auburn, the Tide’s main rival, and Oklahoma in a BCS bowl game.
It was almost reminiscent of 2008 when Alabama lost to Florida in the SEC title game and then failed to show up against Utah in the Sugar Bowl. But if history does repeat itself, the disappointment of 2013 should mean great things for 2014.
After the Tide lost those back-to-back games in 2008, it went on to go 14-0 and win its first of three national titles in a five-year span.
But to achieve that feat — and many are predicting Alabama to do just that — Saban said his team can’t waste time thinking about what might have been and needs to look at what they can do to get back on track.
“It's not really about judging. It's not really about complaining,” Saban said. “It's not really about questioning. It's really about buying in and actually doing all that you can do to submit to the things that you have to do to have the best opportunity to be successful.”
Still a competition for starting quarterback
While the general public has already anointed Florida State transfer Jacob Coker the next starting quarterback at Alabama, Saban isn’t so quick to jump on the bandwagon.
Saban actually defended the play of Blake Sims, who backed up the now-departed AJ McCarron last season, and said that there’s going to be a competition in the fall.
“Jake Coker has the opportunity to come in and compete for the position. Blake Sims has been competing for the position,” Saban said. “Really did a pretty good job in the spring. Didn't play great in the spring game, but we really didn't do the things that he's capable of doing. So there's going to be a competition there, as well as some of the younger players will be involved in that competition.”
Coker seemed like the natural fit to replace McCarron because of his experience and his pedigree. Even though Coker was the backup at Florida State last season, he was in a heated competition with Heisman-winner Jameis Winston throughout the spring and fall camp.
Whoever he picks is going to be instrumental to whether the Tide can shake off the disappointments of last season and get back to its championship ways.
“We really can't make that decision or prediction as to what's going to happen at that position,” Saban said. “But the development of that position, regardless of who the player is, is going to be critical to the success of our team.”
Lane Kiffin adjusting to life as an assistant
Saban didn’t talk a lot about his staff, but did sympathize with the tough transition new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has had to make from head coach to assistant.
Kiffin was fired early last season after spending four seasons as the head coach at USC. Prior to that, he spent two seasons as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders and one as the top man at Tennessee. Kiffin hadn’t been an assistant since working as USC’s offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll in 2006.
“I think all of us would be remiss, I was a head coach once and went back and worked as an assistant, and that's a difficult transition for anybody,” Saban said. “I think Lane has certainly handled that very, very well.”
And Saban said the players have taken to him.
Similar to his first years at USC, Kiffin has charmed Alabama players with his youthful exuberance and his new offense, and Saban is hoping that pays dividends for the Tide this season.
“The players have responded to him very well,” Saban said. “New energy, new enthusiasm, new ideas to do some things offensively that would enhance our chances of being successful. I'm really excited to have the opportunity to work with him.”
Saban mocks media pick for the SEC title
In 18 of the past 22 years the media has incorrectly picked the winner of the SEC and this year, the Crimson Tide was in the crosshairs.
Saban, who apparently keeps track of these things, decided to razz the media and point out its voting flaws.
“I know you all pick a winner in the conference every year. I'm not saying who you picked this year,” Saban said. “But last year you'd actually been wrong, you know, like 17 out of 21 times. Now you're wrong 18 out of 22. But you've also not picked the right team the last five years in a row.
“Every year that we've been fortunate enough to win the championship, you picked somebody else to win it. So just to let you know that we're evaluating you.”
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