Three members of the Alabama football team talked about the bitterness of losing the National Championship Game, the anticipation of playing Florida State and what Nick Saban is really like as part of SEC Media Days on Wednesday.
After entering the Hyatt Regency – The Wynfrey Hotel to the cheers of crimson-clad fans, junior wide receiver Calvin Ridley, junior defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and senior center Bradley Bozeman answered questions from staying on top year after year, Alabama’s season-opening foe Florida State and whether the loss to Clemson in last season’s title game gave the Tide any more motivation going into the 2017 campaign.
“When you lose a big game like that, you definitely come into the next season with a chip on your shoulder,” Ridley said. “We’re very excited to get out there. All our guys that did play in the game are really hungry to get back out there and play and show the world that we are one of the top teams in the nation.”
Fitzpatrick said you always learn from a loss.
“If you don’t, that’s on you,” he said. “We’re definitely using the motivation, and we’re not letting small things slide. That’s the reason we lost last year because we let little things slide towards the end of the season and the championship game.
“We lost because of small details.”
Those “small details” aside, Alabama has annually been able to sustain its place in the college football world. Leadership on the team has been a factor.
“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.”
Bozeman noted that the Crimson Tide focuses on its process to stay on top.
“We push every day and we try to be 1-0 at the end of every week,” he said. “We try to do things that other people don’t want to do or can’t do. We just push it, break down barriers and knock down walls.”
Brian Daboll begins his first full season as offensive coordinator. Ridley said many of the elements that were seen last year will be on display in 2017, saying that Saban “brought in one of the best guys for us. We’re going to be a lot better.”
Last season’s offense was led by quarterback Jalen Hurts, the SEC Offensive Player of the Year and SEC Freshman of the Year. His teammates said he’s not resting on his laurels.
“He’s improving every day and he’s one of those guys who works really hard to be better,” Ridley said. “He gets the respect, but there are some people one there who don’t respect him, but they should.”
Bozeman said the offense has come out clicking. But it’s not just about the signal caller.
“It’s not about just the quarterback, or just the running back, or just the line,” the senior center said. “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.”
On the other side of the ball, Fitzpatrick said he was a leader last year but is set to step up even more.
“This year, I feel like I have to be more vocal and step into that role,” he said.
Alabama opens the 2017 season with a top flight game on Saturday, Sept. 2, against Florida State in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Ridley, a Florida native, can’t wait.
“I liked Florida State when I was coming out of high school, and I know a lot of guys over there,” he said. “I’m just real excited to get a chance to get back out there and competed against one of the best teams in the nation.”