The essence of Nick Saban’s process is to get players to eschew the tendency to look at the end result and to always treat the next task as if it’s the most important one.
However, after ending the 2013 season with back-to-back losses to Auburn and Oklahoma, those negative results have Saban and the Tide program seeking a rebirth to the grinding approach that helped them claim three national titles in the previous four seasons.
The next task for the Tide is improving during spring practice, and Saban’s method of getting his entire team to buy in is simply to learn to pay more attention to the details instead of the big picture.
As Andrew Gribble of AL.com writes, the early returns are positive after the first few days of spring practice.
"This year I find the players are really more focused in terms of the things we need to believe in, the things we need to do, whether it's hard work, discipline, finishing plays, paying attention to details," Saban said. "The kind of things that make big differences in close ballgames."
The type of focus that Saban was referring to was clearly missing not only in the losses to the Tigers and the Sooners, but also in stretches throughout the 2013 season, as detailed by ESPN’s Alex Scarborough.
And it wasn’t one particular area that deserves to take the brunt of the blame, because all three phases endured moments of failure in each of the Tide’s defeats.
The offense was plagued by inconsistent play from the offensive line—which failed to earn tough yards late in the Auburn game and was repeatedly beaten at the point of attack by Oklahoma’s defensive line. Additionally, the usually steady AJ McCarron and the Tide’s all-star cast of skill players were plagued by inconsistencies that resurfaced in the last two games.
The defense was gashed by Auburn’s running game and made Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight look like the second coming of Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel.
Of course, the special teams fiasco in the Iron Bowl will not be forgotten anytime soon.
Now, it’s on Saban and the team as a whole to make sure their mistakes are not repeated in 2014.
The main traits of Saban’s famed process that will be used to counter these failures are accountability and leadership.
While McCarron famously harped on the sense-of-entitlement issues of some of the younger players last season, the veterans on this year’s squad are already busy setting the tone for the upcoming season.
Players such as junior receiver Amari Cooper and senior linebacker Trey DePriest are stepping up to assume the leadership void left by outgoing players such as McCarron and C.J. Mosley.
Among their chief tasks are eliminating any signs of complacency and reestablishing the standard that fueled the program’s recent run of excellence.
"Guys are just a lot more hungry," DePriest told Gribble. "We didn’t finish the season like we wanted to. Guys knew that and they just took a different approach to it, and are trying to get back to the standard to how we do stuff."