Saban Discusses Tide Achievement
Alabama will finish its season January 1 in the Capital One Bowl against Michigan State in Orlando. Michigan State is 11-1 and ranked ninth in the nation. Bama is ranked 15th after having started the season ranked first in the nation.
Alabama Coach Nick Saban was asked following the Tide's Tuesday practice if this team had "underachieved, overachieved, or done about what should have been expected.
?I don't know. I can't really answer that," Saban said. "I'm not satisfied with the accomplishments that we made as a team. But I don't know that, unless you win every game and win it all, that you're ever satisfied as a coach with what you achieve.?
"At the same time, I think this team has made a lot of progress throughout the course of the year. Just didn't finish a couple games. Didn't play very well in one game and didn't finish two other games the way we needed to to have success. I think that some of these things are opportunities for them to learn and grow and get better. ?
' "But given "all that we lost" from last year's team, all the good football players — 13 players that signed a professional contract, I don't know how many of them made pro teams, but seven, eight or nine, I forget — lot of good football players. A lot of young guys taking their place. I don't know that, maybe the preseason ranking was based more on what last year's team did than what this year's team probably deserved. And now this team has gone through a pretty full body of work, a 12-game season, and they have what they deserve, you know? You reap what you sow. We're not satisfied with that. But that doesn't mean that the team underachieved. It means that I wish we could have done better in terms of developing the kind of maturity that we needed, and perseverance, and competitive spirit to finish and play with more consistency."
There is some concern in the Alabama camp with illness, not too much on a few minor injuries.
Saban said, "I think all in all, the work has been good. We had a few guys missing today. We've got a little stomach virus going around. We had about five guys that were out with that today, and it's fairly contagious, so when guys have it, we keep them away rather than let them come to practice.
"There were a couple of guys who were sick. Chris Jordan was actually excused for personal reasons. Chavis Williams got a little head injury yesterday. Nothing serious. Probably will be back tomorrow. Dre (Kirkpatrick) got stepped on, his foot, yesterday in practice and hopefully he'll be able to do some things tomorrow. If not, he should be ready to go when we get to the bowl site.
"I'm sure that players are probably ready to be excused tomorrow. We did have a good work day today. Sunday was a good day for us. Yesterday probably not what we wanted in terms of the overall mental intensity, but when you practice this many days in a row, it's kind of hard to get everybody going every day. I think it's necessary work that we've got to do to be ready to play in the game, especially with the fact that when you get to the bowl site, you don't have as much meeting time, you don't have as much time to install things, so you really want players to have a good sense of what's expected of them before you even get there. Then you practice it and rep it more when you get there."
Saban was asked about motivating players to play four quarters.
"Everybody puts the responsibility on the coach to motivate the team," Saban said. "In most cases, you usually can succeed in being able to do that. But the bottom line is, it's got to be important to the players. Our players were obviously disappointed after the last game. We didn't finish the game. We played against a very good team that is going to have an opportunity to play for the national championship, and I certainly don't want to take anything away from them. They showed tremendous resilience in coming back in the game, but we didn't show the tenacity that we needed to be able to finish what we started. In several games this year, that's been a little bit of a problem. What kind of ownership are people going to take to play their best game?
"The legacy of this team rests on how they finish the season. I said that before the last game. I'm saying it before this game, because this is the last game for sure, against a very good team, a top 10 team, and who is going to take ownership for it? A lot of it has to come from within. Extra motivation--even me; I'm external motivation to them--it's got to be something that they want. It's got to be important to them. Sometimes bowl games are a little more difficult unless there's a challenge to the players, and we have a challenge with the kind of team that we're playing that's won 11 games. This team has shown a tremendous resiliency and tenacity that they have. They've come back in a couple of games and won games by finishing strong and look like they have the kind of leadership and confidence that you need to be able to do that. That's something that we've tried to develop with the maturity of our team. Hopefully it's gotten better and better, and hopefully we've be able to have the sort of tenacity that we need, persistence that we need to be able to finish and play for four quarters. But again, it's got to come from within. We'll certainly do everything we can to prepare and everything we can to motivate them, but at the same time, at the end of the day, they've got to want to do it, too."
One of the storylines of this bowl game has been Michigan State's ability to come from behind and win games this season. Saban was asked about the qualities of a come-from-behind team.
"It's all about players," he said. "Belief in players, confidence in players. Our team last year did a good job of finishing games when they had to, stopping teams in two-minute when they had to, making two-minute drives when we had to, whether it was before the half or whenever it was. It comes from leadership, it comes from belief. It comes from deep-down want-to to want to do something special with your team, and it's got to mean something to everybody. When you have maturity on your team, that certainly helps, because when you have maturity, you have good leadership. I think all of those things probably inspire people as much as anything to be able to come back in games because it means so much to them and they have so much pride in terms of wanting to win and to prove something. I'm certainly not going to be satisfied unless our team plays its best game of the season in this game.
Saban was asked how Michigan State's loss of one of its top receivers, B.J. Cunningham who broke his foot, would affect the game for Alabama.
"I don't think it affects us," Saban said. "They've got really good skill players. They've got three or four receivers that when you look at third down, they had three guys that had almost the same number of catches. It's not like they have one significant guy that if that guy were missing, it would make a huge difference. They use a lot of skill people in a lot of different ways. They've all been pretty effective and pretty consistent. The big thing is the quarterback has played really well this year, and that's made a big difference for their team."
Saban was asked about a report from Orlando that Alabama is providing upgrades to the high school, Dr. Phillips, where the Crimson Tide will practice at the bowl site. Dr. Phillips is the high school of current Crimson Tide commitment five-star safety Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix and prospect four-star running back Dee Hart.
Saban said, "I think that the facilities that we have there are good facilities. We always try to upgrade anything that we can, especially for player safety. We said that we would work on the fields, also the locker rooms for the sake of improving them for our use, which the school will benefit from because we're not going to take them with us. ?
"But we did that last year. We had some work done on the fields where we practiced. Only because that's certainly a way that somebody can get injured if you don't have a quality practice field. These are high school facilities and they've been used all season long, just like our fields aren't nearly as good now as they are back in August and September because of the use.?So we try to upgrade them just like we're trying to make these safe for our players."
Alabama will have one more practice in Tuscaloosa Wednesday morning, then have a short Christmas break. The team will assmeble in Orlando Sunday to resume preparation. Saban offered season's greetings both to the sports reporters and to Alabama supporters.
"This is the probably the last opportunity that I have to not only wish you all who do a great job of covering our team and bringing a lot of positive self-gratification to our players a happy holiday, but also all of our fans and supporters and our people at The University who have supported the team all year long.
"The relationships that you have probably mean more than anything that any of us have, and certainly as you get older you sort of appreciate those a little more, so this is a great time of year to show that appreciation for loved ones and I want to wish everyone out there who supports Alabama a happy holidays."
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