Cooper has no doubt which is more motivating.
“The losses,” he said Thursday. “It humbles you and it makes you hungry and aware of how losing feels, and you don’t want to feel that way again.”
The Crimson Tide was once again declared the Southeastern Conference favorite in media voting at the league’s media days, and is regarded as one of the likely national contenders.
That’s nothing new.
Nevertheless, the mood has been as different as the memories. Alabama was roughed up by Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl and that came after Auburn’s 109-yard return of a missed field goal on the Iron Bowl’s final play, which has seemed to Landon Collins to be on an endless loop ever since.
“It shows on TV every day,” the Tide safety said. “It beats in our heart every day. I get sick. I have to turn it off.”
The unhappy ending to last season left coach Nick Saban’s concerns less about complacency and more about getting back to doing what led to three national titles in four years. As he put it, players and coaches must “check your ego at the door.”
Alabama is still seeking a replacement to quarterback AJ McCarron, a race that has come down to Blake Sims and Florida State transfer Jake Coker. Plus the latest crop to leave for the NFL must be replaced.
“We’re basically an unproven team in some areas,” Saban said. “There’s a lot of question marks because of the players that we lost and the players that we have coming in.”
It hasn’t changed the way Alabama is regarded: As the team to beat in the SEC.
League media picked Alabama to win the West over defending league champion Auburn, and the overall title, in balloting released Thursday. South Carolina was picked to top Georgia in the East.
Saban noted that SEC reporters have only been right five times in the last 22 years.
“You’ve been wrong the last five years in a row,” he said. “Every year that we won the championship you picked somebody else. To be kind, it doesn’t mean anything. I’m rooting for you now. You’re all my good buddies.”
Despite that light note, Saban spent much of his time at the podium talking about disciplinary issues both on his team and, in general, college football and today’s youth.
The Tide had a pair of players arrested in the two weeks leading up to media days, running back Kenyan Drake and defensive lineman Jarran Reed.
Saban said both players are “suspended from activity” with the team.
“When they prove that I think or we think that they’re ready to come back and show a little bit more responsibility and discipline for how they handle themselves, their decision-making, how they represent the university, their family and themselves, then we’ll allow them to come back on the team,” he said. “We’re not making that judgment right now.”
Kentucky tries to turn
talent into victories
HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — Mark Stoops has established that Kentucky can bring in highly-rated recruits.
Now the Wildcats’ second-year coach is trying to turn that added talent into a few more victories.
Stoops is still looking for his first victory in the Southeastern Conference following a 2-10 season in 2013, including an 0-8 mark in conference.
Stoops said on Thursday at the Southeastern Conference’s media days that the Wildcats are “physically better” and that “hopefully that will translate to more wins.”
Kentucky returns 15 starters from last season, including seven on offense and eight on defense. But there is still some uncertainty at quarterback with Patrick Towles, Maxwell Smith, Reese Phillips and Drew Barker battling for the job.
“I know everybody’s asked a lot about our quarterback situation,” Stoops said. “We’re still unsettled on who the starter is going to be. But I’m very confident that we’re going to improve at that position. It starts with the players around him.”
Smith threw for 1,276 yards last season, but missed all of spring workouts because of a shoulder injury.
The 6-foot-3, 216-pound Barker is one of the many highly-rated recruits that Stoops has coaxed to Kentucky with his first two recruiting classes. Both Rivals and Scout ranked the Wildcats’ most recent class in the nation’s top 20.
Kentucky does have some returning talent, especially along the defensive line. Seniors Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith return after productive season. The 6-foot-4, 264-pound Dupree had 9 1/2 tackles for a loss, including seven sacks, last season.
“Bud is extremely versatile,” Stoops said. “He’s very good with his hand in the dirt playing defensive end, but you can also stand him up and move him around a little bit in the 3-4 and play some linebacker. Very versatile player. Very instinctive.”
But it’s undoubtedly the young players on the roster that will eventually decide whether this Kentucky program can become competitive in the SEC’s Eastern Division. The Wildcats have a 16-game losing streak in conference games.
“The recruiting, you know, it’s awfully important to us,” Stoops said. “That’s where it starts. You’ve got to have great players.”
Stoops’ ability to recruit and a boost in home attendance have already helped him earn a contract extension that runs through 2018.