Mental game: Once again, it comes down to Saban matching right programming with talent
by Marq Burnett
mburnett@annistonstar.com
Jul 18, 2013 | 2618 views |  0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama head coach Nick Saban reminds reporters that they are 4-17 with pre-season picks during SEC Media Days Thursday at the Hyatt Regency in Birmingham. (Photo by Trent Penny)
Alabama head coach Nick Saban reminds reporters that they are 4-17 with pre-season picks during SEC Media Days Thursday at the Hyatt Regency in Birmingham. (Photo by Trent Penny)
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HOOVER -- The words change, but at its core, Nick Saban’s message remains the same.

Saban’s latest speech on the “process” followed the same blueprint.

He acknowledged the Crimson Tide’s accomplishments from last season, while also planting seeds of doubt about certain aspects of his teams heading into 2013.

He jokingly reminded everyone that reporters who vote at SEC Media Days are 4-17 in the last 21 years when picking the Southeastern Conference champion. Florida (1994, '95, '08) and LSU (2007) are the only favorites to win the league. Unfortunately for Saban, they picked two-time defending national champion Alabama as the preseason pick to win the SEC this year.

“It’s a challenge each year to reinvent your team,” Saban said Thursday, the final day of SEC Media Days.

The biggest part of the challenge, like most years, may not be on the field. Alabama recruits the top players, making replacing star talent less of an issue.

Between the ears is where Saban and his staff once again will need to reach another group with championship aspirations. Saban stressed that five or six plays define a season and two or three plays can affect the outcome of the game. Saban said the challenge becomes getting players to play every play because no one knows when those plays are coming.

“That’s what we’re trying to get our players to buy into so they’re going to put themselves in a position to play those plays in what will most certainly be a competitive season and a challenging season against some great football teams,” he said.

Every motivational tactic seems to be in play. In the players’ weight room, film of upcoming opponents plays on every television.

“It’s something that reminds us that this week, we’re trying to beat this team at something,” linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “So when the season comes, it’s like we already played this game. It’s all about mental errors and being prepared for the game.”

Pictures and names of former Tide stars who have turned into NFL draft picks give the current team a constant reminder of where they hope to be.

“All of the (facilities) we just built drives me,” offensive lineman Anthony Steen said. “We have a certain hallway that’s just for first-rounders. That makes me want to be on it.”

Even fear is a factor.

“Sometimes, coach can be in that mood and when he gets on you, he’s going to get on you hard,” Mosley said. “He’s going to coach (everybody) like (they’ve) been here for four years. I got cussed out my freshman year like I was a senior.

“That’s part of being accountable for your job. That matures our young players and helps them get better.”

Mosley noted the Tide doesn’t need motivational tactics because the coaching staff’s message hasn’t changed since he arrived on campus. It’s all about players buying in from the first day and leaving their egos behind.

But Mosley did say some players get caught relaxing at times, which has cost them in the past.

“When they do, that’s when Coach Saban and the leaders get on them,” Mosley said. “That’s how we lose a game. We get complacent and start relaxing and fading away from the little things that help us get to where we need to be.”

Avoiding complacency will be paramount with a historic three-peat on the horizon.

Marq Burnett covers University of Alabama sports for The Star. Email him at mburnett@annistonstar.com. On Twitter, follow @Marq_Burnett.

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