Alabama claimed its 16th national championship one year ago, but you might not know it talking to the defense. A number of Crimson Tide players have said they weren't particularly happy with their performance defensively against Clemson in last year's 45-40 victory.

Defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, who was a part of the secondary that allowed 405 yards passing, met with reporters after practice on Wednesday and reflected on his feelings after that game.

"After last year, to be honest with you, it didn't feel like we won the game because of how bad we played," Fitzpatrick said. "You know, I was real upset."

His disappointment was noticeable enough that his mother even asked him after the game why he had his head down instead of celebrating.

But that performance has served as motivation for this Alabama team since leaving Glendale last January.

"I feel like everybody kind of used that one game in the offseason and in the summer to kind of push them and remember like if we don't do what we're supposed to do, we aren't going to play like we're supposed to play. So we've all been working real hard and using that as a motivation."

Fitzpatrick and the nation's top-ranked defense will have another shot at Deshaun Watson and the high-powered Clemson offense in Tampa on Monday, and the sophomore shared some observations of the dual-threat quarterback's improvement since last year.

"He's similar in play as last year, but he's definitely gotten better. Making better decisions with the ball and he's using his feet a little bit more. They're running him a bit more. So he's definitely gotten better since last year."

Alabama will travel to Tampa on Friday ahead of Monday night's national championship game, which kicks off at 7 PM/CT on ESPN.

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