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January 24, 2014

Players tell what went wrong

MOBILE | It speaks to the exacting almost unassailable standards of Alabama football that the one lingering question after an 11-2 season was "What went wrong?"

That question was posed to Alabama players this week at the Senior Bowl, and, to their credit, they didn't duck it. Answered ranged from an array of diversions to getting away from what made Alabama the No. 1 ranked team in the country for 11 weeks.

"It was just a bunch of distractions on the team," wide receiver Kevin Norwood said. "Stuff that we never really did that just sort of kind of got in the way of what we (were) trying to stay focused on, our goals and stuff like that. Just the little things. Not doing the little things right. Not finishing crossing the line. All of it is going to catch up eventually and it did."

There was no smoking gun found in the replies. No one named names or pointed fingers at specific players, but even the generic answers revealed a common theme of what went wrong. Simply put, some players eschewed the team-first mentality for a me-first attitude.

"Coach (Nick) Saban's a real good coach. He only wants the best for his players...If the players can stop being selfish and just basically hand themselves over to the team and be committed to the team and be committed to doing what coach Saban wants ... because all coach Saban wants to do is win," Norwood said. "Everybody wants to win, nobody wants to lose."

The first clue may have come in the wake of the season finale when AJ McCarron said his goodbyes to his 2013 teammates at his locker during the Sugar Bowl postgame. Upon embracing different guys who might asked to be leaders in 2014, he pulled them in and said, "Just get the guys to buy in."

To what area players didn't "buy in" is unclear, but Adrian Hubbard said those players who couldn't accept the Alabama way of doing things would no longer be an issue.

"I think the people who didn't buy in are eliminated from our team," he said. "This year there were just too many guys used to winning, and they forgot what losing felt like. So when we lost, they don't want that feeling anymore. No one tried to lose, but at Alabama we're just a little bit different than everybody else. Our standards are a lot higher than everyone else.

"When you lose it reignites the fire. I hate losing. I'm a sore loser. I hate losing. coach Saban hates losing. Everyone hates losing around there, so when it happens no one's happy."

Freshman running back Alvin Kamara, who never saw the field in 2013 while dealing with an injury and a suspension, transferred earlier this month, as did LaMichael Fanning, who transferred to Jacksonville State in December.

Championships can be had again, Norwood said, if everyone looks out for the team. "I think if they buy in, I think they'll be successful."

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Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron.suttles@tuscaloosanews.com or 205.722.0229.

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