1/10/22 - Indianapolis - Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) eludes the tackle by Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) and linebacker Christian Harris (8) during the third quarter at the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Monday, January 10, 2022. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Alabama football clearly motivated by National Championship loss to Georgia

ATLANTA — Outside linebacker Will Anderson used the words disappointment and failure to describe the end of Alabama’s 2021 season.

Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young mentioned the word fail when discussing the result from the last game he played. Senior safety Jordan Battle said the 33-18 defeat to Georgia last season was the biggest motivator for him to return to school for another year when the NFL was an option.

No matter where you turned on Tuesday, you probably heard someone tied to the Alabama football program expressing some sense of frustration with the way the 2021 season concluded.

“To me it’s all about winning a championship and finishing what we failed to finish last year,” Young told reporters on Tuesday.

The motivating loss has seemed to spark Alabama this offseason, as Saban was unusually calm when discussing his team on Tuesday. It helps that Alabama returns both coordinators, a rarity under Saban in recent seasons.

Of course, the bigger benefit might be having Young and Anderson back for their junior seasons. The latter led the country in sacks last year, notching 17.5. Young meanwhile tossed 47 touchdown passes in his first season as a starter.

Much like Kirby Smart, Saban is rare to give out praise. But even he couldn’t help but gush about the two most talented players on his team.

“I don’t like to compare players, but to have two players that make such a significant impact on our team as those two guys, I don’t recall ever having a circumstance like that,” Saban said. “We’ve had some great impact players, but never one on offense, one on defense, of the caliber that these guys have been able to play on a consistent basis.”

With Young, Anderson and scores of former blue-chip recruits, Alabama is the preseason favorite to win the SEC and national championship. Of course, that was the case last season, as the Crimson Tide was the media pick to win the SEC. And even with a 41-24 win over Georgia in the SEC championship game, the Bulldogs won the ultimate prize in January.

Georgia’s defense proved to be too much to handle for Alabama in the end, while the Bulldogs’ offense scored on its final two possessions of the game. Kelee Ringo’s interception of Young safely gave Georgia the breathing room it needed to put away Alabama.

Despite the double-digit win by Georgia, it was still a game Alabama led in the fourth quarter. Anderson knows Alabama just how close the Crimson Tide were a season ago to winning it all.

“It was good, it was bad, but I feel like if we just cut down on the mental errors — everybody locked in and knowing what we have to do,” Anderson said. “Knowing, like, Coach called this play, knowing everybody knew their job, I feel like we win that game.”

Anderson and Young racked up countless individual awards last season. But those don’t carry the weight that a national championship would for either star player.

“The reason I chose Alabama and the reason I’m happy I’m here is because all you have to do is focus on the team,” Young said. “When you focus on the team, you have success. In whatever capacity that may be, individually, the goals that you set outcome to fruition.”

Alabama isn’t scheduled to take on Georgia this season. But with both teams being the heavy favorites to win their respective divisions this fall, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see these two teams meet with championship stakes on the line.

Will Anderson motivated by ‘disappointment and failure’ of loss to Georgia

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