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Alabama opens preseason camp with same lofty goals, maybe extra motivation after poor finishes

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TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — Ryan Kelly knows there's much to celebrate from Alabama's 2014 season, even if it doesn't really feel that way. For instance, a Southeastern Conference championship and a playoff berth.

The Crimson Tide opened preseason camp Thursday hoping for a happier ending after two straight postseason losses drained some of the joy from 11- and 12-win seasons.

"I look at the (championship) ring now and then, but it doesn't feel like we even won," said Kelly, Alabama's senior center. "At the time it was an awesome feeling, we get the chance to go play Ohio State. But then after we lost to Ohio State it was like all the season was for nothing."

That loss to Ohio State in the semifinal game followed another Sugar Bowl defeat to Oklahoma for a program that had won three national titles in four years and dominated much of the last two regular seasons, too.

Kelly, for one, thinks he sees a different attitude from coaches and players alike and noted that some of his teammates haven't won a bowl game, much less a national championship.

Alabama has plenty of questions to answer before facing Wisconsin on Sept. 5 in Arlington, Texas.

The Tide opened camp with an ongoing quarterback battle for the second straight year. This time it appears to be down to last year's backup, Jake Coker, and redshirt freshman David Cornwell.

PHOTO: Alabama quarterbacks, from left, David Cornwell, Cooper Bateman, Jake Coker and Alec Morris, runs drills with other quarterbacks during NCAA college football practice, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Alabama quarterbacks, from left, David Cornwell, Cooper Bateman, Jake Coker and Alec Morris, runs drills with other quarterbacks during NCAA college football practice, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Quarterback Blake Sims is one of nine offensive starters who are gone after he set the Tide's single-season passing mark. Star receiver Amari Cooper and tailback T.J. Yeldon are gone, too.

Coach Nick Saban felt well enough about the progress of Alabama's newcomers that he switched up his usual opening-day routine of practicing the veterans and youngsters separately. That's partly because coaches are now allowed to have some meeting time with players during the summer, giving the newcomers a little head start in what's expected.

There are some openings for playing time among the freshmen. That appears to include tailback Damien Harris and receiver Calvin Ridley, both rated as the best at their position by some recruiting services.

Running back signee Bo Scarbrough practiced in a black, non-contact jersey after undergoing knee surgery in the spring. Saban said Scarbrough has been suspended by the NCAA for an unspecified reason for the first four games.

"It's an NCAA thing which we have to respect what they say about amateurism," Saban said. "I don't really know the details about it. I shouldn't comment because it seems like every time I make a comment about something it kind of gets taken out of context and gets blown up and all that, so I'm going to make less comments about things."

That philosophy clearly doesn't include a biography released this month about him written by Forbes writer Monte Burke, "Saban: The Making of a Coach." Saban finished his news conference with an unprompted rant on the topic.

"I just want everybody to know that I'm opposed to an unauthorized biography on anybody," Saban said. "If some person that you don't even know (is) trying to profit by your story or someone else's story ... one of these days when I'm finished coaching at Alabama, I'll write an authorized book because there's only one expert on my life and guess who that is — me. And there won't be any misinformation.

"There won't be any false statements. There won't be any hearsay. There won't be any expert analysis from anybody else. It will be the real deal."

He said his book when he's done coaching "will have the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

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PHOTO: Alabama quarterbacks, from left, David Cornwell, Cooper Bateman, Jake Coker and Alec Morris, runs drills with other quarterbacks during NCAA college football practice, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
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