Speaking at SEC spring meetings on Tuesday, Saban said that while a sprained ankle suffered during the SEC championship game was partly to blame for Tagovailoa’s hiccups down the stretch last season, his performance should also serve as motivation moving forward.
Tagovailoa, who threw for 3,966 yards and 43 touchdowns overall, struggled during the SEC and national title games. Four of his six total interceptions came during those contests, including a pick-six that gave Clemson its first touchdown en route to 44-16 blowout in the College Football Playoff National Championship.
“I think that he has to challenge himself to get back into great shape and overcome some of the things that happened toward the end of the year,” Saban said of the rising junior. “And I think he should take the perception that he has a lot to prove relative to how we ended the season.”
Saban added: “I think the whole team fits into that category.”
Saban began his comments at spring meetings with a message to his team, which returns its top four receivers and several key pieces on defense, including linebacker Dylan Moses, lineman Raekwon Davis and safety Xavier McKinney.
“The question is,” Saban said, “who here on our team is happy with the way things ended last year? We’re certainly not. So we’ve talked a lot about the Bama factor — playing with discipline, high standard of accountability and responsibility, and doing your job at a high level on a consistent basis and putting the team first — and we’re certainly still working on that.”
Alabama opens the season against Duke on Aug. 31 in Atlanta.