Saban: Tua needs to challenge self in offseason

Tua's non-stop highlight reel (1:03)

Take a look back at Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa's highlight-filled 2018 season. (1:03)

SANDESTIN, Fla. -- Alabama coach Nick Saban doesn't want his quarterback, Heisman Trophy runner-up Tua Tagovailoa, to get comfortable this offseason.

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 also should 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 a 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."

"I think the whole team fits into that category," Saban added.

Later, talking on ESPN's The Paul Finebaum Show, Saban expanded on the comments about Tagovailoa, saying, "He had a tremendous amount of success last year. He's a great person, a great competitor. But I think at some point in time or when you start thinking about outcomes ... outcomes can be a distraction. Whether you want to win awards for yourself or you just want to win a championship for your team.

"And I don't think there's anything wrong with either one of those things, but when you start focusing on outcomes, it's sort of a distraction, because you really need to focus on what you need to do to get the outcome."

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.

Mel Kiper Jr.'s first Big Board of NFL prospects featured six Alabama players in the top 25, including wideout Jerry Jeudy at No. 1 and Tagovailoa at No. 4.

"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.