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Saban: Alabama has to learn from loss to Clemson


Brett Hudson



HOOVER, Ala. -- The rematch between Alabama and Clemson in the College Football Playoff National Championship in January provided talking points to last six months. 


The 4-hour, 8-minute game intensified the pace of game debate and included a so-called "pick play" on the Deshaun Watson-to-Hunter Renfrow touchdown pass with one second left that lifted Clemson to a 35-31 victory. 


Nick Saban hasn't gotten lost in those talking points. The Alabama coach's view is narrower. 


"I want to learn. I don't want to waste a failure," Saban said. "Everybody's hurt by the fact they lost, especially the way we lost that game on the last play of the game, but it wasn't the last play. It's what led up to the last play, and I think our players realize that." 


With the phrase "don't waste a failure" as the backdrop, Alabama has attacked the offseason. On Wednesday, many fans heard the tagline for the first time in 2017 when Saban said it at Southeastern Conference Media Days, but it wasn't the first time players have heard it. 


"You can learn so much from losing," Alabama offensive lineman Bradley Bozeman said. "When you do something wrong and you win, you don't realize exactly what you did wrong. You're kind of held up in the win. When you lose, you see every little detail. You can't help but miss it." 


Bozeman wasn't alone. Defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick examined more than Alabama's week of preparation prior to the game against Clemson. In doing so he saw "things we didn't do that we should have been doing throughout the season." He admits the things he remembers were small, including tardiness to meetings or "not wearing the right socks." 


"I know that sounds crazy, but it builds up. It really does," Fitzpatrick said. 


Focusing on the little things won't faze Bozeman or Alabama, which has won the last three SEC championships and has played in every College Football Playoff. 


"You wouldn't be at Alabama if you didn't want to continue what players like (former wide receiver) Julio (Jones) and (former offensive lineman) Barrett (Jones) started," he said. "It's part of our lifestyle. It's part of us." 


Many of the players chasing that standard this season will be returners, including quarterback Jalen Hurts.  


Last season, Hurts, an early enrollee, became the first freshman to start at quarterback in Saban's career. He finished 13-1 as starting quarterback and was named a Freshman All-American by USA Today and ESPN. He earned SEC Offensive Player of the Year accolades from the conference coaches and The Associated Press. He completed 62.8 percent of his passes and threw 23 touchdowns (nine interceptions). he also was second on the team in rushing with 954 yards) and led the Crimson Tide with 13 touchdowns. 


Saban said Hurts "has done a good job in the offseason of becoming a better passer, understanding the passing game better." Damien Harris, who led Alabama in rushing with 1,037 yards in 2016, and Calvin Ridley, who had a team-high 72 catches and was second in receiving yards (769) last season, also returns. 


The offense will work under new leadership in offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who spent the past four seasons with the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. He coached tight ends for two seasons, offensive line for one, and was an offensive assistant for one in his second stint with the Patriots. 


"I think he's exactly what we're looking for in terms of helping us re-develop a pro-style passing attack," Saban said of Daboll, "that would go with the athleticism with some of the spread offense that we've used with Jalen and our other quarterbacks, which helped us tremendously." 


NOTES: Saban said running back Bo Scarbrough and linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton didn't have any injuries that prevented them from going through summer workouts. 


Scarbrough broke his leg in the national championship game. He finished his sophomore season with 125 carries for 844 yards and 11 touchdowns. 


Hamilton tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the SEC Championship Game and, according to Saban, was held out spring practice. Even after missing the two College Football Playoff games, he still was fifth on the team with 64 tackles and third on the team with seven tackles for a loss. 


Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson



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