By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
SEC Media Days
SEC Media Days have become a bigger event every year, and the most anticipated day is always when Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide address the media in Hoover.
Saban was joined by defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, offensive lineman Bradley Bozeman and receiver Calvin Ridley at the Wynfrey Hotel. Saban addressed the media and discussed how proud he is to be taking part in his 16th SEC Media Days.
In his opening remarks, Saban said Alabama’s defense will be “very young,” but he is pleased overall with his team’s progression throughout the summer.
“I think this is going to be one of the youngest teams that we’ve had probably since maybe 2012, especially on defense, where we lost a ton of really, really good players. I think seven guys drafted off the defense, all in the first four rounds. “So it’s going to be a challenge to replace those guys.”
On offense, Saban mentioned how this upcoming team will be the first time Alabama has had a returning starter at quarterback since 2013. He praised new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who is taking over for Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian.
“Brian Daboll has done a really, really good job as offensive coordinator,” Saban said. “The players have really responded to him well. He’s got a great personality. I think he’s exactly what we’re looking for in terms of helping us redevelop a pro-style passing attack that would go with the athleticism with some of the spread offense that we’ve used with (rising sophomore) Jalen (Hurts) and our other quarterbacks, which helped us tremendously, I think.”
Saban was asked about Alabama losing the national championship game to Clemson in the last seconds of the game. He believes his team learned many lessons during the heartbreaking loss.
“I think when you lose, the mindset is much more of I’m willing to change,” Saban said. “I want to learn. I don’t want to waste a failure. What could we have done better? Because everybody’s hurt by the fact that they lost, especially the way we lost that particular 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.”
Wide receiver Calvin Ridley reiterated what Saban said about the Clemson loss, noting that his teammates are “really hungry” to get back on the field and prove they are a championship team.
“I’ve been around two teams, one a championship and one not,” Ridley said. “Coach Saban preaches leadership, and the leadership on this team is pretty good. We have some guys who are buying in right away, and now we have to get the younger guys to buy in and we will be a good team. When you lose a big game like that, you definitely come into the next season with a chip on your shoulder.”
Ridley, a rising junior, saw his numbers dip during his sophomore season. He caught 72 passes for 769 yards and seven touchdowns last season with Jalen Hurts at quarterback. During his freshman year, Ridley caught 89 passes for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns.
The star receiver said he knows he has to “do better this year” for his team if the Tide’s offense is going to be prolific in the passing game.
Defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick will most likely be a first round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and he will be expected to be the leader of the young Alabama defense in the upcoming season.
Fitzpatrick said he feels like he needs to be more vocal with this year’s team, pointing out that Alabama has plenty of talent on the defensive side of the ball despite losing several players to the NFL.
Fitzpatrick discussed the magnitude of Alabama’s opening game of the season against Florida State, saying the game should be “a lot of fun to play.”
“[Florida State is] probably one of the best teams and one of the best legacies in college football,” Fitzpatrick said. “We don’t get to see them a lot, so when we play each other, it’s going to be a great game.”
Offensive lineman Bradley Bozeman was asked about Hurts’ progression, and he was optimistic and the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year.
“Our offense has to come out clicking,” Bozeman said. “It’s not about just the quarterback, or just the running back, or just the line. It’s about the whole unit. It’s about the whole machine. If one part isn’t running right, the whole thing’s not running. It’s not just one aspect.”
Saban was also asked about a potential quarterback controversy between Hurts and incoming five-star freshman Tua Tagovailoa, but he shut down any speculation quickly in the most humorous exchange of the day.
A reporter asked Saban about the “controversy,” saying, “People want to keep saying that there’s a quarterback controversy…”
Saban cut him off and asked,” Who keeps saying that? You’re the only one saying that. I never said that. I don’t know who’s saying that. It’s like me saying somebody said it’s going to be a hurricane outside today. Is that right or wrong? I said it so that means I created something that makes everybody panic and it creates news. You go out there and get people excited, interested and afraid.”
The moderator tried to move on to the next question, and Saban quipped, “I was waiting for that one, man. That was like a hanging curveball.”
Saban is good for a few rants directed at the media each season, but that one was pretty mild. He’s probably saving his good material for the regular season.