That stinging loss to Clemson in the National Championship Game left a mark. Maybe not physically, but the new quarterback of the Alabama defense certainly felt it.
“It really impacted me a lot,” junior linebacker Dylan Moses said last week at SEC Media Days in Hoover. “It left a bad taste in my mouth. Just because I felt like I didn’t do enough. But this year, I really have the mindset that I don’t want to leave the field, and that was really something I had to deal with the entire year (in 2018) because I wasn’t the Mike linebacker, so there were times I had to leave the field for the other guy to come in and take that responsibility.
"Now it’s like since it’s in my hands, it’s my defense, I can run it the way I want to run it. I want it to be crisp, I want things done the right way, I want to never leave the field. Overall, I’m very eager for this season to start.”
What if Alabama had to play Clemson again with the same personnel? Is the Crimson Tide's best better than that of the champion Tigers of Dabo Swinney?
"Yeah, I think so," Moses said. "I have a lot of confidence in our team. I have a lot of confidence in [quarterback Tua Tagovailoa], our receivers, our offensive line, defensive line. At our best, yeah."
As for what happened in Santa Clara, Moses had a clear-cut answer, one that ties into what Nick Saban has been saying. Alabama had already peeked and wasn't playing its best when the postseason rolled around.
"During the game, we weren't prepared for it. Clemson got the best of us that day," Moses said. "And kudos to them. But from that point on, we learned from our mistakes and we're trying to get better."
Moses added that the 44-16 demolition on January 7th resulted from better game planning by Clemson and better preparation on their end.
Moses, perhaps sticking up for his conference, didn’t even credit the Tigers for being Alabama’s toughest opponent last season.
“The toughest game I have played in in college was the Georgia game last year, SEC Championship (Game),” Moses opined. "The reason I say that is because it was a very aggressive game on both sides of the ball.
“Georgia came with it. We came with it. I just remember after that game, I just felt like I got into a brawl. My entire body was hurting. It took me a couple days to get back healthy and take care of myself. That is one of the hardest games I have ever played in.”
As a sophomore, Moses was a finalist for the Butkus Award, which goes to the nation’s top linebacker, and notched a team-high 86 tackles. That included 10 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, while adding one pass breakup, a forced fumble and one quarterback pressure.
But his role has only grown during the offseason. He clearly established himself as the leader of the defense during the spring, and will be the primary player relaying calls from the sideline in addition to making pre-snap adjustments,
The former 5-star prospect and product of Baton Rouge, La., seemed happy to be selected to represent the Crimson Tide at Media Days.
“I feel like personally it is a great honor to be here, to be one of the guys that Coach Saban has chosen,” Moses said. “Personally, I just really want to lead the defense in the way it is supposed to be led. I am the type of guy, I am a perfectionist, I want things done the right way, same as Coach Saban. I am hard on myself. Just as I am hard on myself, I am going to be hard on the other guys as well.
“I just want things to be done the way it is supposed to be. I really want to be a great leader for my team, for the defense, and I want our defense to be dominant. I want our team to be dominant in all aspects, not just defense. I know Tua [Tagovailoa] wants that as well. We are working together, hand in hand, as he is the leader on offense, I am the leader on defense, make that happen.”
Moses and his teammates begin practice in a week on August 2. Fan and Media Day is set for Saturday August 3.