TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -Alabama coach Nick Saban wants the Crimson Tide to focus on intangibles such as leadership, handling success and finishing better - a not-so-subtle reminder of last year's collapse.
``People sort of look in the mirror and fall in love with themselves sometimes when they have a little success,'' Saban said Wednesday. ``We need to have a burning desire to improve, to play better football than we played a year ago.''
The Tide tumbled with season-ending losses to Florida and Utah after winning its first 12 games and rising to a No. 1 ranking.
That's why Saban has different priorities going into the start of fall camp on Thursday.
ckup quarterback? How good can that defense be?
Saban is focusing on consistency - starting with the defense.
The Tide's defense was one of the nation's best last season and returns eight starters despite offseason attrition that claimed starting linebacker Brandon Fanney.
The Tide ranked third nationally in total defense and second against the run. Saban harps on the end-of-season breakdowns in the last two games, when Alabama allowed 31 points apiece.
That includes a sudden inability to keep teams out of the end zone on 7-of-9 trips inside the 20-yard line, which Saban called ``the difference between playing in the national championship game and not playing in it.''
``Those guys have a lot to prove and a lot to re-establish who they are and what they want to do,'' Saban said. ``All the things we emphasized in the last two games we didn't do.''
Offensively, junior quarterback Greg McElroy secured the No. 1 spot during spring practice, but redshirt freshman Star Jackson, walk-on Thomas Darrah and possibly freshman A.J. McCarron will vie for the backup role. Junior college transfer James Carpenter, who participated in spring practice, and 6-foot-6, 350-pound freshman D.J. Fluker, will bid to replace All-America and Outland Trophy-winning left tackle Andre Smith.
to receivers to complement Julio Jones.
The offseason took some toll on the roster. Fanney and fellow linebacker Prince Hall, defensive back Alonzo Lawrence and running back Jermaine Preyear have been dismissed from the team for violating team rules.
``We have a demanding program here,'' Saban said. ``These guys didn't do what they were supposed to, whether it was for academic reasons or whatever, and they're not going to be a part of the program.''
Charlie Higgenbotham and Chris Jackson have already transferred while four more reserves left the team for medical reasons. Three signees will enroll in January and count toward next year's scholarship limits.
Fanney started at jack linebacker, a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end spot where he recorded 66 tackles last season. Eryk Anders backed up Fanney last season and played in every game.
Saban used a question about his plans at that position - possibly including shifting over inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower - to make another point.
``Fanney didn't participate in spring practice and we didn't drop football at Alabama,'' Saban said. ``One player can't make our team one way or the other. We have other players that we'll try at their position.''
by not doing what he's supposed to, not buying in.''

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