Alabama looking to reestablish identity after disappointing end to 2013

Saban at Media Days

HOOVER, Ala. (WIAT) – The 2013 season ended bitterly for the Alabama Crimson Tide. On the heels of a crushing loss to the Auburn Tigers in the Iron Bowl, the Tide was swept away by the Oklahoma Sooners in the Sugar Bowl.

Head coach Nick Saban met with reporters Thursday on the final day of SEC Media Days and discussed the end of last season and what the Tide is looking to do to improve on its failures in 2013.

“Having lost our last two games last year, I think it’s a little bit different mindset with our players,” Saban said. “We have to reestablish our identity as a team at Alabama. It’s going to take every player to have a tremendous amount of buy-in for us to be able to do that.”

Now, Saban is tasked with replacing standout quarterback A.J. McCarron, who was with the program for five years and led the Tide to two national titles.

Florida State transfer Jake Coker has been lauded by former coaches and scouts, and is expected to compete for the position with Blake Sims and others in fall camp.

“Jake Coker has the opportunity to come in and compete for the position. Blake Sims has been competing for the position. Really did a pretty good job in the spring. Didn’t play great in the spring game, but we really didn’t do the things that he’s capable of doing,” Saban said.

Coker, who arrived on campus in May, has impressed teammates during his short time in Tuscaloosa. Wide receivers Amari Cooper and Christion Jones sang his praises Thursday.

“He’s been doing an awesome job with our wide receivers, with our coaches, learning and doing all the little things right, trying to become the quarterback that we want him to be.,” Jones said.

Jones noted differences in Coker’s release and stated that he’s a type of quarterback different than any quarterback Alabama has seen recently.

Whoever wins the job will take hold of the reins attached to first-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s offense. Kiffin, who was previously the head coach at the University of Southern California and the University of Tennessee, replaces Doug Nussmeier, who left after the season for the same position at the University of Michigan.

“Coach Lane Kiffin is a great coach and a great person to be around. He brings that quality to the team. I think we can constantly compete for a championship. Coach is a likable guy,” Cooper said.

“The players have responded to (Kiffin) very well. New energy, new enthusiasm, new ideas to do some things offensively that would enhance our chances of being successful,” added Saban. “I’m really excited to have the opportunity to work with him.”

The Tide returns seven starters on offense and five starters defensively after a season that saw many of its stars make the jump to the NFL.

“We’re in a little bit of a rebuilding situation, even though we played a lot of young players that have the right attitude and character to improve and be more consistent players,” Saban said of the Alabama defense. “There still is some question marks about how our defense comes together.”

Texas Talks

Rumors swirled during the offseason that the University of Texas pressed hard to convince Saban to take its head coaching position.

Saban has been adamant that he does not want to leave Alabama since the rumors came out, but Wednesday reports surfaced that the Longhorns offered Saban a contract in the range of $100 million.

“I didn’t have any conversations with them. Nobody offered me anything. So I guess if I didn’t have any conversations with them, I didn’t have very much interest,” Saban said. “I’m very happy at Alabama. Miss Terry is very happy at Alabama. We certainly enjoy the challenges that we have there, the friends that we have established here. This is where we just choose to, you know, end our career someday.”

Status clarity for Kenyan Drake, Jarran Reed

Two Crimson Tide players found themselves in trouble with law enforcement over the offseason, and clarity had yet to be produced regarding their status with the team.

Saban addressed the matter Thursday, stating both players have been punished.

“Those players are suspended but they’re not kicked off the team. They’re suspended from activity,” Saban said. “When they prove that I think or we think that they’re ready to come back and show a little bit more responsibility and discipline for how they handle themselves, their decision making, how they represent the university, their family and themselves, then we’ll allow them to come back on the team.”

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