HOOVER, Ala. (AP) - Alabama might have a new offseason mantra: Don't waste a failure.
The Crimson Tide has had six months to contemplate what went wrong in the national championship game , when Clemson won with a last-second touchdown against the nation's best defense.
In some ways, it might be easier for coach Nick Saban to keep his players’ full attention following that demoralizing ending than after winning one of his four national championships with ‘Bama. Saban said players are often more open to growth and learning after a loss, and he's certainly hoping that carries over.
As he puts it, “I don't want to waste a failure.”
“Everybody's hurt by the fact that they lost, especially the way we lost that particular game on the last play of the game,” he said. “But it wasn't the last play. It's what led up to the last play. And I think our players realize that.”
It's a sobering finish for a team that is expected be a national title contender every year, including this one. The Tide has won three straight SEC championships and 17 consecutive league games, most by a comfortable margin.
Saban was even asked about a perception that the SEC has become “a one-team league.” He responded by rattling off praise for most of the league's teams.
“I am trying to think of somebody in our league that I don't have a tremendous amount of respect for,” Saban said. “I think there's a lot of parity in our league.”
It certainly didn't seem that way when the Tide outscored its final eight SEC opponents by an average of 39-11, including a 54-16 league championship game rout of Florida. A 48-43 win over Mississippi was the Tide's only league matchup decided by single digits.
Alabama does have some rebuilding to do, especially on the defensive side.
The Tide must replace four first-round NFL draft picks and seven defenders who were chosen in the first four rounds. Saban thinks it might be his youngest team in five years since having to replace four first-rounders in both 2011 and 2012.
SEC offensive player of the year Jalen Hurts is back at quarterback and has an array of playmakers led by receiver Calvin Ridley and tailbacks Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough. It's the first time since AJ McCarron in 2013 that Alabama's starting quarterback has returned.
Hurts will be working with a new offensive coordinator in former New England Patriots assistant Brian Daboll .
There might be something to that mentality of not wasting a failure. Alabama has been awfully good when rebounding from a loss that occurred either in the postseason or the end of the regular season.
Alabama won a national title in 2009 after ending the previous season with two defeats. The Tide massacred Michigan State 49-7 in a bowl game after a 28-27 loss to Auburn in 2010, and then won two straight national titles.
Alabama made the 2014 playoffs after a Sugar Bowl loss and won the 2016 title after falling to Ohio State in the semifinals the following season in New Orleans.
“When you lose a big game like that, you definitely come into the next season with a chip on your shoulder,” Ridley said.
Added defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick: “Coming off a loss is definitely a whole different type of motivation.”