Saban's message to his defense: Finish

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Alabama finished last season tied for third nationally in total defense.

But it's the fact that the Crimson Tide didn't finish on defense that junior linebacker Rolando McClain can't get out of his mind.

"The thing I take away from last season is that we didn't finish," McClain said. "That's one of the things we stress in this program, and we didn't do it. So, we're not focusing on how good we can be, this team or this defense. We're focusing on finishing, and I mean finishing everything."

McClain's obviously spent a little time around Alabama coach Nick Saban, who talks about finishing the way your mother used to talk to you as a kid about looking both ways before crossing the street.

There's no question that this Alabama defense should be good, maybe one of the best in the country in 2009.

But Saban had a very pointed message for his defense Wednesday on the eve of the Crimson Tide's first preseason practice.

"Regardless of what we did last year, we gave up 31 points the last two games we played in, both games that we played in," said Saban, referring to the 31-17 loss to Utah in the Sugar Bowl and 31-20 loss to Florida in the SEC Championship Game. "Those guys have a lot to prove and a lot to re-establish in terms of who they are, what they want to do and how consistent they want to be."

For the record, in the five games prior to those final two, the Crimson Tide gave up 10 or more points only once. And in their first 12 games, they gave up more than 14 points only three times.

"All the things that we emphasized, in the last two games, we didn't do," Saban said. "We were a pretty good red area team, almost 60 percent no touchdowns in the red area, and those last two games they scored seven out of nine times they got in the red area, and that was the difference between playing in the national championship game and not playing in it.

"We were plus-13 in turnovers and were minus-4 in the last two games. So, we had issues. We gave up more big plays than we'd given up all year. We had issues, and we need to resolve those issues if we're going to become a better team."